Isn’t it strange that we live at a time when medications and medical devices are advertised to the public? Hearing devices are definitely having a moment right now, and one can hardly flip through a newspaper or browse a health website without seeing multiple prominent ads for the newest hearing aid.
The hearing devices in these ads typically look sleek, like the iPhone version of hearing aids, and the ads often claim things about proprietary technology and low prices. This is only going to become more popular as “over-the-counter” hearing devices hit the market next year and manufacturers all try to get a bigger share of the market.
I suppose one good thing coming out of this is that while hearing devices used to carry a certain stigma with them, these days they seem to be primed to be just another cool piece of “do not miss” technology. Chances are, because of this a few more hip senior citizens are going to get over their pride and be willing to try these devices out.
The reality we need to get back to is that hearing health starts with the hearing exam and a conversation with your audiologist. We audiologists have seen all the devices, read through all the features, and can help you select a device that actually works well for you based on your type of hearing loss and your other lifestyle needs.
So, it’s ok to look at these ads and formulate some questions about certain features that you might be interested in (say, rechargeable batteries, bluetooth connectivity, or a covert profile). But before you commit to anything or attempt to buy straight from the manufacturer, talk to your audiologist to discuss your needs. A recent AARP study found that with two groups with identical hearing devices, the group with audiologist support had radically higher satisfaction rate and was more willing to wear their hearing aids in the long run.
Think it might be time for a hearing check-up? Reach out to us to schedule an appointment!
With a decade of audiology experience under my belt, I can safely say I’ve heard it all. Here are four questions more patients should be asking their audiologist before they leave the office.
How do I know if my hearing aid is working correctly?
You should have periodic appointments with your audiologist to check on your hearing and on the function of your hearing aids. Too many people get hearing aids and then forget to check back in with their audiologist. If you think your hearing aids might not be working properly, the problem could be in the device, or it could be that your hearing has further deteriorated.
What can I do to improve my hearing and protect it from further damage?
Not enough people ask this question. For a long time, we’ve known that hearing loss is irreversible. These days, we’re finding out that diet and an overall healthy lifestyle has more to do with hearing health than we previously thought.
Also, you need to get educated on protecting your hearing, especially if you’re a younger person with hearing loss. There are more things we encounter in everyday life that cause hearing loss than you might think. Give your hearing a chance by using adequate protection. Our office is always ready to discuss custom hearing protection with you and what would be best for your needs.
What happens if I’m not happy with the hearing aids I’ve been fitted with?
Even if you’re happy with them as you leave your audiologist’s office, hearing aids should come with a trial period that lets you test them out in your everyday surroundings. If you’re not happy with their performance, you can likely trade them in for a different model. Legally, the trial period lasts for 30 days, but this can vary from office to office , and that’s why it’s important to ask.
How long will these hearing aids last?
Hearing aids, unless covered by insurance, are a big investment and it’s perfectly reasonable to think about the value you’re getting out of them. The pace at which technology is changing is ever-increasing, and especially with hearing aids now having smartphone integrations, it’s likely that your model of hearing aid was built with a lifespan in mind. You should know what that lifespan is so you can plan ahead. The average lifespan of hearing aids these days is about five to seven years.
Have a different question from these? We’re here to answer all your questions! Contact us today to start the conversation.
Ear cleaning is a deeply divisive topic. It’s also kind of gross, so people don’t really like to discuss it.
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a waxy substance secreted in the ear canal. It’s there for a reason. It protects the ear canal and the small hairs that are a crucial part of the hearing mechanism from particles and from drying out. There’s also some evidence that it might have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
If that’s the case, why does modern society wage a war on earwax? Almost everyone believes that they should thoroughly swab their ears with Q-Tips on a daily basis to keep them clean. If you were to ask them, they would probably say that cleaning their ears is good for their hearing.
Herein lies the big misconception.
Nearly every audiologist will tell you not to use Q-Tips. The ear is a fragile mechanism, and sticking anything inside it, even if it’s made of cotton, is a bad idea. If you feel like you have to clean something, then at least make sure you stay on the outside of the ear canal.
The truth is that most people don’t have to do anything to clean their ears and they will not have problems with earwax. The human body has a way of regulating these things. In fact, using Q Tips can sometimes lead to more problems because it pushes earwax deeper into the ear canal, causing it to become impacted and build up.
If your hearing sounds muffled and you think it might be due to earwax, do not try any home remedies. Go the the audiologist’s office and have the earwax professionally removed by someone who knows what they’re doing and won’t risk damaging your hearing.
A note for those with hearing aids: When you take off your hearing aids, you may notice that they have earwax on them. This is normal, and modern hearing aids are designed to be oleophobic (they repel oil and wax). Many models also come with wax guards that catch earwax before it can clog up the devices.
Occasional clogging of the hearing aid is possible. If you’re noticing things are weird with your hearing aid, check out the entry points for the microphone — you may have to clean out the earwax from them and that might fix your problem.
Having issues with earwax? Schedule an appointment today to get it looked at and removed!
The holiday season is a time to get together with family and celebrate. It’s also a great opportunity to check in on members of the family we don’t see very often. Needless to say, this is also a perfect opportunity to keep an eye out for the classic signs of hearing loss.
The statistics are startling. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. A large number of these cases go undiagnosed because the patient isn’t willing to speak up, so it’s really up to a family member to notice the hearing loss and say something about it. With that in mind, here are a few things to watch out for when you’re at your next family gathering.
- They sit by themselves. Every family has the resident crank, but if you notice that someone who is typically amicable isn’t connecting with people in the same way, this may be a sign that they’ve developed hearing loss. A lot of the time, when a patient has hearing loss, they don’t want to communicate with others because it’s difficult. They may not even be aware they’re doing this. If you notice someone sitting in the corner, go talk to them and see how they respond.
- Having to repeat things. This is an obvious and classic sign of hearing loss. If someone is not responding when you ask them a question, or you find you have to frequently repeat yourself when talking to them, your loved one may be suffering from hearing loss.
- Not sequiturs. Not every person is willing to admit that he or she doesn’t know what’s going on around them. Instead, they may try to follow along and then get things wrong or say random stuff. If you notice any of this while sitting around the dinner table, you’ll likely want to investigate further to find out what’s going on.
- Talking too loud. We’re all familiar with loud talkers. Sometimes, speaking loudly is the only way to get heard at a packed family table. But if this is not typical of the person, they could be overcompensating for their declining hearing by speaking louder.
- TV or music too loud. Another classic sign—if you notice someone watching TV at a volume that’s clearly too loud, you might be dealing with some level of hearing loss.
Keep in mind that hearing loss is not an all or nothing thing. It can come on quite subtly and then get worse over time. Similarly, the signs of hearing loss can be subtle at first and then escalate over the years. It’s in the interest of the family to catch things as early as possible in order to improve the quality of life of the relative in question.
If you do see any of the signs above and think your loved one may be suffering from hearing loss, the next step is to take them in to a licensed audiologist for a hearing test. If it does turn out that they have hearing loss, he or she can be fitted with hearing aids and their quality of life will be greatly improved.
Most of the time, when you mention the phrase “hearing loss”, people tend to imagine an older person. After all, as a person gets to be 65, the odds of having some hearing loss are 1 in 3, and they increase to 1 in 2 above 75 years of age. However, there’s a more insidious kind of hearing loss that we should also pay attention to—that in children. Hearing loss in children could be the result of genetics, an illness, or an accident, but whatever the cause, hearing loss can dramatically impact a child’s development.
One big thing parents should be aware of is ear infections. Also known as otitis media, they are the most frequently diagnosed disease in infants and young children. Three out of every four children have at least one episode of otitis media before their third birthday, and one in two of them have three or more ear infections in their first three years.
Every ear infection presents a danger of damage to the eardrum, the bones of the ear, or even the hearing nerve can occur and cause a permanent, sensorineural hearing loss.
There’s not much parents can do to prevent the occurrence of ear infections. However, parents should always keep an eye out for the classic signs of hearing loss, particularly after their child has a hearing infection. Children with hearing loss can experience the following negative effects on their development:
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Learning problems in school
- Feeling bad about himself
- Having trouble making friends
It’s not surprising that hearing loss can seriously impact a child’s development. Think about it: one of the main ways in which we take in information about the world isn’t functioning properly.
The average deaf person reads at a 4th grade level, and this is entirely due to their hearing loss.
However, early detection can help to overcome this disparity. Earlier is always better when it comes to identifying hearing loss, so the problem can be corrected. That’s why, if there’s any question of hearing loss at all, parents should get their child tested by a certified audiologist right away.
Critical language development age is 0-3, so when children miss this time, their speech and language is affected. If the problem is remedied in time, the child frequently has the opportunity to catch up to their peers. Parents will often see a night and day difference in their child’s behavior once the hearing loss is remedied. This is similar to parents who get their child’s vision corrected and see them perform much better in school, sports, etc.
If you think your child may be experiencing hearing loss, don’t wait. Get some piece of mind by scheduling an appointment with us today.
For most of their history, hearing aids have been decidedly low-tech devices, consisting of a basic microphone that amplified the sounds around it and projected these sounds into the ear. These days, things are a little different. Now, hearing devices have all kinds of integrations with the smartphones we already use all day long.
Typical integrations use bluetooth, which allows the hearing aid to pair with any mobile device. But it’s a big step forward for the functionality of these devices when manufacturers provide more thorough integration with their device.
According to the World Health Organization at least 466 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss, and mobile integration has the ability to really impact their quality of life for the better.
Apple was on the forefront of the hearing aid integration, not surprisingly, since they seem to be on the forefront of implementing accessibility features into their devices. Apple’s “Made for iPhone” program launched in 2013 with iOS 7, uses Bluetooth and a special protocol for improved integration of hearing aids with iPhones and iPads. For the first time, iPhone users could stream audio from their device directly to their ears.
There are currently 44 compatible, audiologist-issued hearing aids. In 2018, this compatibility may not sound like a lot, but in 2013 smartphones still needed intermediary devices called streamers to connect to hearing aids. Of course, having to use one less device also simplifies the whole system and makes it much more user-friendly.
The “Made for iPhone” functionality extends beyond just streaming audio into the hearing aid:
- Users can monitor the battery life of their hearing aid on an iPhone
- Users can adjust the volume and any settings through an app on the iPhone
- Users can have their audiologist program hearing aid presets for different sound situations (think: noisy restaurant, sporting event) and users can switch between these setting by triple clicking on the iPhone home button
- Even better, the GPS in the phone can learn locations that the patient goes to in order to automatically switch settings
- For those who always seem to misplace their hearing aids, there’s a “find my hearing aid” feature on the phone
- Live Listen allows the iPhone act as a remote microphone so the patient can place it at the other end of a long table, etc., and hear the people on that end with perfect clarity
This integration with Apple is obviously a great thing, but then we heard that Google will also be providing some integrations for its Android platform. This would have and even bigger impact, because, believe it or not, 85 percent of the world’s smartphones are on the Android platform.
GN Hearing is partnering with Google to bring low-power hearing aid streaming support to future versions of Android. Patients with a smartphone will be able to connect, pair and monitor their hearing aids from their Android device. In all, it’s a great time to be a person who wears hearing aids!
Did you know that October is National Audiology Awareness month? It’s great to be an audiologist at a time when we’ve got all these initiatives that help educate the public on the importance of hearing health.
Over 36 million Americans have hearing loss—and despite what many people assume, more than half are under the age of 65.
The American Academy of Audiology, who founded National Audiology Awareness month, believes that it’s important to generate awareness on a local level.
If you want to spread awareness about a particular auditory issue, check out the fact sheets below. They cover everything from sensorineural hearing loss, to hearing loss and depression, to hearing loss being correlated with heart disease and other diseases.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Hidden Hearing Loss
- Genetic Hearing Loss
- Listening Environment
- Behavioral vs. Objective Hearing Tests
- Congenital Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection
- Hearing Loops
- Hearing Loss and Depression
- Syndromes and Hearing Loss
- Educational Audiology
- Hearing Loss and Infant Hearing Screening
- Hearing Loss
- Age Related Hearing Loss
- Bone-Anchored Hearing Devices
- Cochlear Implant
- Cognitive Decline
- Communication Options
- Fall Risk
- Hearing Loss in Children
- Heart Disease
- Important Difference Hearing Vision
- Listening Communication Strategies
- Listening Effort and Fatigue
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
- Telephone Listening and Devices
- Tinnitus Management
- Types of Hearing Loss
At Chicago Hearing Services, we understand the need to raise awareness of these pressing issues on hearing loss. After all, many people who are experiencing the milder forms of hearing loss are not actually aware of it. Likewise, we need those in the community to keep an eye on their loved ones and peers to spot the classic signs of hearing loss. Like the Heimlich maneuver, spotting the signs of hearing loss should be something that is universally known and used to protect the health of others.
For a long time, hearing health and hearing loss have been viewed as straightforward issues: avoid regular exposure to loud noises to save your hearing, and when hearing loss does occur, such as in advanced age, treat it with the use of hearing aids that amplify the sound around the patient.
But what if there are other things you can be doing to help to save your hearing? Over the past couple of years, more research has come out on the impacts of a healthy diet on hearing health, and while no definitive answers are available yet, it certainly seems that eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can promote hearing health, among other things. If you think about it, this intuitively makes sense: your diet presents the building blocks of your body, and there’s no reason why your hearing apparatus should be excluded from this equation.
Focus on Minerals
While vitamins are the heros in most healthy diets, evidence points to the fact that it may actually be their inorganic counterparts, minerals, that have the strongest link to hearing health.
Potassium is one such mineral, which plays a big role in controlling the levels of various fluids in the body, not least of them being the fluid in the inner ear. Some doctors think that age-related hearing loss may actually be caused by the natural decrease in levels of potassium that happens as we age.
To get more potassium in your diet, focus on:
- Fruit, like bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit
- Dried fruits, like as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium)
- Cooked spinach and broccoli
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Folic acid is another key mineral, and at least two studies have shown that with shrinking levels of folic acid in old age, taking a folic acid supplement can actually slow down hearing loss.
To get more folic acid in your diet, focus on:
- Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach
- Citrus fruits, such as orange juice
- Whole grains and cereals
Magnesium, believe it or not, has been shown (in combination with Vitamins A, C, and E) to give people some resistance to noise-related hearing loss. And, as you know if you’ve read our post on urban noise pollution, more of us are exposed to loud levels of noise than we assume.
To get more magnesium in your diet, focus on:
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts and legumes
- Whole grains
- Fatty fish
- Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens
Thankfully, if you’re mindful of your diet, the same foods you would eat for overall health happen to check the boxes for hearing health as well!
Considering the correlation between aging and hearing loss, it’s a truly unfortunate case that hearing exams and devices are not covered by the Medicare coverage so many older people rely on. Thankfully, hearing health has recently gained more prominence in the public’s eye, and some government officials are beginning to get the picture.
With Medicare specifically, a part of the problem has been that, while it has extensive coverage of any necessary services provided by physicians, audiologists have not been classified as physicians by Medicare. So, their services weren’t covered.
Under the current rules, hearing exams are only covered when ordered by a physician. Even then, diagnostic hearing and balance exams are covered under Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), which means that the patient is responsible for 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, and that Medicare Part B deductibles apply.
The Audiology Patient Choice Act of 2018, sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rand Paul of Kentucky, attempts to solve that problem by expanding the definition of “physician,” for purposes of the Medicare program, to include an audiologist with respect to the furnishing of audiology services. Whereas before a patient would have needed a referral from his or her doctor in order to visit the audiologist, this will no longer be needed, helping to save patients both time and money on the way to healthier hearing. The bill is currently being discussed on the floor of the Senate, and has a fair chance of passing.
If it doesn’t happen this year, it’s likely it will pass over the next few years because everyone is becoming more aware of the importance of hearing health, which is not just a quality of life issue, but a physical health issue.
It’s important to note that this bill will only impact the costs of the hearing exam. It offers no coverage for the actual hearing aids once your audiologist finds out that you need them. However, considering that there is currently no coverage whatsoever, covering the hearing exams is an important first step. Currently, only a fraction of those with hearing loss ever come in for a diagnosis.
More information, including the progress on the bill, is available here. And, if this issue is important to you, (let’s face it, it should be for everyone), you should write to your senator and representatives and tell them to support bill S.2572!
Is hearing health a quality of life issue, or a fundamental health issue? For a long time, hearing health has been thought of by the public as a “nice to have” rather than a “must have”. Now, a series of studies are showing that hearing health affects more than just being able to carry on conversations—it can fundamentally impact your physical and mental health. In this post, we’ll go over some of the latest research in this important area.
This May, two studies in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery found separate health issues that are correlated with hearing loss. The first study found a correlation between hearing loss and heart health—75% of people ages 70 or older with heart failure also had hearing loss! The second study, which was actually a meta study of 36 separate hearing studies found that hearing loss was significantly associated with a decline in all areas of thinking skills and with developing dementia.
All of us are scared of Alzheimer’s disease and losing their mental acuity as we get older. Guess what? Hearing loss, in combination with other factors, is an early predictor of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but tackling hearing loss as soon as it becomes apparent can instead help to slow mental decline.
Depression and mental health has been in the news more than usual lately, and we’re not surprised to find out that hearing loss could play a part in these conditions as well. As people get older, experiencing hearing loss can add to the feeling of separation they feel from their peers. One recent study found that elders with hearing loss have more than twice the level of depression as compared to their peers who don’t suffer from hearing loss (11% of the population vs. 5%). Another study found not only a link to depression, but also other mental disorders like anxiety and paranoia.
Finally, treating hearing loss can also help you avoid the single biggest cause of accidental deaths over the age of 65 — accidental falls. Healthy hearing gives you improved awareness of what’s going on around you. One study coming out of Johns Hopkins University found that even mild hearing loss can triple the risk of accidental falls.
With this extensive list of potential health problems, a hearing exam and wearing some hearing aids, which is considered to be an inconvenience by some, begins to pale in comparison with the alternatives. As a matter of fact, in conjunction with other lifestyle choices like healthy diet and exercise, addressing your hearing health head-on may be one of the easiest things you can do to improve quality of life and your overall level of health.