For a long time, hearing aids have not been covered by the vast majority of insurance policies. This has presented a challenge for most people with hearing loss, as hearing aids are expensive and very much necessary for improved quality of life, but up until now needed to be paid for out of pocket. Now, finally, it looks like things might be changing.
Illinois House Bill 3503, signed into law a few months ago, requires insurance companies to offer optional coverage for hearing instruments and any related services for all individuals 65 years of age and older when these are prescribed by a hearing care professional.
The question this presents is how the existing system will adapt to the new law. Medicare does not cover hearing aids, and the supplemental plans that go along with Medicare may not need to abide by state laws as they are covered by Medicare rules (which is a federal program). So, it appears that the main patient demographic for hearing aids, senior citizens on Medicare, may still not be covered.
As a part of the new law, Insurance companies are required to cover up to $2,500 per hearing aid every 24 months under the legislation. A senior has the option to select more expensive equipment, but will be required to pay the uncovered cost out of pocket.
The new law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, so it shouldn’t be too long until we see how the industry responds to the new legislation.
We always verify insurance when someone comes in for an appointment and we are happy to guide patients to try to save them as much money as we can on their hearing aids. Stay tuned to our blog as we wait to see if the new law might lead to more savings for our patients.
We’ve often said that hearing loss can be a taboo subject for some people, because for some reason it carries a stigma. If that’s the case, then get ready for the true taboo subject, which is just another part of life that those suffering from hearing loss have to deal with—having sex with hearing loss.
The first challenge is what to do with the hearing aids themselves. On one hand, it’s important that you know what’s going on during sex, and hearing can really help in that department. It also helps with general spacial awareness. On the other hand, hearing aids can be cumbersome when you’re fumbling around in the dark. They’re also expensive pieces of medical equipment that you probably don’t want to risk breaking if they fall out.
In general, with all but the most discreet of hearing aids, sex will be a little more complicated than it usually is. In the heat of the moment, your partner may inadvertently brush against the aids and cause them to fall out. You might also hear some feedback from your hearing aids if you find yourself in an odd position.
However, there’s also a good reason to wear your hearing aids during sex — you yourself will be more comfortable with your surroundings, and you’ll get to see that for your partner, it doesn’t matter that you wear hearing aids.
Check out this recent article from Vice about one woman’s experience with having sex with hearing loss.
If you think you or a loved one might be experiencing hearing loss and could benefit from hearing aids, please get in touch with us to set up an appointment.
This year, like every year, we look to the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) for the latest in hearing aid technology. Over the past few years, hearing technology has grown into a distinct segment of CES, which usually focuses more on consumer-facing electronics than medical devices. This has been great to see, because it helps to spread awareness of hearing health.
LE Audio Bluetooth
We all use Bluetooth on a daily basis. Bluetooth is a great technology for quickly linking up nearby electronic devices, but also presents some unique challenges when used with hearing aids. For example, switching the hearing aid to connect it to a phone or other device is currently not quite as seamless as most users would prefer.
At this year’s CES, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced LE Audio, a new version of bluetooth that, among many other things, is designed to work better with hearing aids. Supposedly, this technology will be able to do stereo connections to mobile devices. There is also some talk about eventually being able to seamlessly connect to PA systems at events or movie theaters. The new tech, called Low Complexity Communication Codec (LC3), will supposedly lower the power consumption needed for Bluetooth, while simultaneously improving sound quality, which is definitely a win-win scenario. Consumers can expect to see devices with this new technology begin to come out in early 2021.
Hearing aids as CES Honorees
We were happy to see a number of hearing aids getting noticed as honorees in the competitive CES innovation awards.
The Oticon Xceed was an honoree in the Health and Wellness Category. Dubbed as the “the world’s most powerful hearing aid”, the Xceed is the “first super- and ultra-power hearing aid with OpenSound Navigator and OpenSound Optimizer, BrainHearing technologies that support more access to speech.” It’s meant to help those with moderate to profound hearing loss and “empowers hearing care professionals to deliver industry-leading optimal output and gain—146dB SPL and 87 dB full on gain—without the high risk of feedback.”.
Meanwhile, Oticon’s RemoteCare technology was nominated in the Tech for a Better World Category. RemoteCare allows patients and hearing professionals to hold virtual appointments at which the professional can remotely adjust their hearing aids as if they were in the same room with the patient.
Another notable release was Phonak’s Marvel Virto Black. It’s billed as “the world’s first custom-made hearing aid that directly streams from both iOS®, Android™, or virtually any other Bluetooth®-enabled audio device”. The Marto Virto Black is also not too shabby in the looks department—it’s a full-featured hearing aid, but is designed to look like a high-tech hearable, giving it a more modern and stylish look than the average hearing aid. It’s a push to make hearing aids more wearable and accepted, and we think they’re moving in the right direction.
Chicago is a city that thrives when communities come together and lift each other up. This creates a circle of impact that leads to individuals feeling empowered to be the best version of themselves, therefore paying it forward to those around them. Chicago Hearing Services empowers its patients by providing custom care, plans and technology so they can live their best life. Here in Chicago, a nonprofit that has empowered Chicago’s youth to pursue their dreams and is close to Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson’s heart, is Big Shoulders Fund.
Big Shoulders Fund is an independent charitable organization that serves inner-city schools and provides a quality, values-based education for Chicago’s children, thereby contributing to stronger communities. The organization was founded in 1986 by a group of Chicago’s civic and business leaders who envisioned a future in which all children in Chicago would have access to rigorous, character building education that would prepare them for long-term academic achievement, career success, and civic leadership. Access to transformative learning and development experiences, a safe environment, mentorship, and support, helps students gain the confidence they need to become thoughtful citizens who are engaged in their communities and contribute to improved quality of life in Chicago.
For more than 30 years, Big Shoulders Fund has pursued a place at the forefront of citywide efforts to address the stubbornly persistent issue of education inequality by opening doors to opportunity for all children, especially for those from distressed communities and low-income backgrounds, regardless of religious or economic background. For more than three decades, the educational landscape in Chicago has undergone countless transitions and encountered formidable financial and political challenges.
With each new challenge, however, Big Shoulders Fund has evolved its approach to better respond to the needs of inner-city children, schools, and neighborhoods without departing from its mission and purpose. In determining its response to these shifts, Big Shoulders engages a holistic approach, guided by the following principles:
- A rigorous education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty
- Every child deserves the opportunity to pursue a quality education
- Exceptional leaders are necessary for exceptional schools
- Successful schools require access to curricular and operational assistance that will support them through periods of change and beyond
- Big Shoulders Fund’s network of schools are anchors in their communities that promote safety and stability while contributing vibrancy
This comprehensive strategy affects change at the student, school, and systematic levels, addressing both the upstream factors that limit economic mobility of those in need and delivering evidence-based interventions that yield high-quality sustainable schools and vibrant communities. Collaboration with school administrators and staff, engagement of leaders from Chicago’s corporate, civic, and philanthropic sectors, and generous investment of a robust community of supporters are at the heart of Big Shoulders Fund’s success.
In fiscal year 2018, Big Shoulders raised nearly $25 million to provide scholarships, academic enrichment, leadership development, and operational capacity to its network of 75 schools and nearly 20,000students. The reach of its impact and the magnitude of its financial commitment to this population is peerless among local education nonprofits. To date, it has invested more than $350 million to advance the mission and vision of its founders and recently received a Four Star Charity Navigator rating for the 13th year in a row, something less than one percent of charities in the United States achieve.
Big Shoulders aligns robust programs and resources to position students in the forefront of learning to achieve academic growth and success in progressively more challenging educational and professional environments. Data demonstrates that this approach is moving the needle toward better outcomes. At two critical points of transitions– the eighth to ninth grade and high school to college–Big Shoulders scholars are thriving; 84 percent of eighth grade scholars matriculated to quality high school options and 94 percent of renewable high school scholars graduated (2018) with 80 percent of Big Shoulders High school graduates enrolling in college for the year following high school and 90 percent persisting on to a second year. Beyond college, alumni vote, donate, volunteer, pursue post-secondary and advanced degrees, and work at higher rates than their peers, twice the national average.
With 80 percent of alumni living and working in Chicago, Big Shoulders Fund’s network of schools are not only providing quality education that leads to lifelong success they are creating the next generation of leaders who are making a difference in their own communities. With the incredible generosity of Big Shoulders Fund’s supporters, like Dr. Vetter-Toalson, we have launched new scholarship programs, grown the number of educators supported in professional and leadership development programs, and significantly increased the capacity of Big Shoulders Fund’s network of schools. This data-driven approach serves children, builds community, and ensures that these vibrant schools continue to thrive and provide a foundation for lifelong success for the next generation of problem solvers, innovators, and leaders.
Big Shoulders Fund is lucky to have Dr. Vetter-Toalson as an engaged supporter for more than a decade. Dr. Vetter-Toalson first got involved with Big Shoulders Fund alongside her sister Diana shortly after she received her Doctor of Audiology from The Ohio State University. She wanted to make a different and believed every child deserved a quality education. Education had been a blessing in her life and she wanted to ensure children had access to one that would help set them on a trajectory of success for years to come.
She joined the Auxiliary Board and got involved in a variety of ways. Dr. Vetter-Toalson helped recruit members, keep people engaged, plan fundraising events, lead service days, and ensure that the Auxiliary Board fulfilled its mission of supporting Big Shoulders Fund through volunteerism, outreach, and fundraising. She even helped start the Big Shoulders Fund Racing Team. Dr. Vetter-Toalson saw the team as a great way to engage people in the mission, spread the word, and raise funds. During her time on the Auxiliary Board, she helped grow its membership to more than 250 members and raise nearly $1M for the Auxiliary Board Scholarship Fund.
As she grew in her career, she wanted to continue her support of Big Shoulders Fund. In 2016 she transitioned from the Auxiliary Board to the Chairmen’s Advisory Council where she helped execute Big Shoulders Fund’s marquee event Lend a Shoulder Day. Dr. Vetter-Toalson helped demonstrate the impact of Big Shoulders Fund’s work while recruiting new volunteers and support. She has also supported fundraising events and continued to volunteer in the schools, even providing consulting help to our academic team around auditory issues in students. Dr. Vetter-Toalson has truly been a steadfast supporter of Big Shoulders Fund’s mission, helping with her time, talent and treasure.
In honor of her service to Big Shoulders Fund and as she celebrates Chicago Hearing Services’ 30th year in business, Dr. Vetter-Toalson will donate $30 to the Big Shoulders Fund Chairmen’s Emergency Scholarship for every hearing aid fitting and sale in 2020.
The Chairmen’s Emergency Scholarship assists families in crisis with tuition in elementary and high school. The scholarship is meant to help provide stability during a turbulent time for a child. In the past, it has helped families who have overcome excruciating circumstances such as the loss of a parent, loss of a home, and more. The scholarship provides families with the opportunity to afford a quality education during a time of crisis.
With your help, the partnership of Chicago Hearing Services and Dr. Vetter-Toalson, Big Shoulders Fund can provide stability, hope, and opportunity for children. Together, we can be the Big Shoulders that carry the dreams of 20,000 children in 75 Chicago schools.
Hearing aids have been through several different perceptions in popular culture. At first, they were seen at modern marvels, miracles of technology that could let once deaf patients hear again. Then, as they became more mainstream hearing aids began to suffer from an image problem—those with hearing trouble were sometimes hesitant to wear a hearing aid because it was perceived unstylish and as a marker of older age (when hearing problems usually develop). This has particularly been the case with patients on the younger end of the spectrum, who may not want to be perceived as having hearing issues by their friends and colleagues.
There have been several studies on this to confirm that it’s in fact a common phenomenon. One study found that “Perceived stigma emerged as influencing decision-making processes at multiple points along the experiential continuum of hearing loss, such as initial acceptance of hearing loss, whether to be tested, type of hearing aid selected, and when and where hearing aids were worn”.
In another study, members of a hearing loss peer support group stated they were experiencing stress, partly due to denial and attempts to conceal the hearing loss. The participant’s fear of being labeled as someone with hearing loss ultimately delayed how soon they seeked treatment.
But something interesting has been happening as of late. As advances in technology have given rise to more and more new and exciting gadgets, people are becoming increasingly comfortable with wearing technology that enhances their lifestyle.
Hearables are a perfect example of this. There is now an entire industry for products that are not technically hearing aids but that allow people to improve their hearing to perform a variety of key functions. such as amplify certain sounds, connect to phones and computer audio signals, and even monitor fitness and heart rate.
Traditional hearing aids are benefitting from this phenomenon, because all of a sudden, it’s not viewed as uncool to be wearing body-enhancing technology. Current hearing devices are so much more than just aids but rather devices to enhance their lifestyle and communication.
If you or a loved one have been waiting on the sidelines because of fear that hearing aids look uncool, get in touch with us! We can try to set you up with a hearing aid that works for you, with the smallest footprint available and a design that you like.
The world of hearing heath suffers from a lot of misconceptions and hearsay. As an audiologist, a part of my job is to educate patients and the general public about facts related to hearing health. Here are four of the most common hearing health myths, and the truth behind them:
Nothing helps hearing loss — this is not true. Properly fit hearing aids, whether on the cheaper or more expensive end of the spectrum, will improve communication. You may still have trouble hearing in noisy situations, but overall clarity will be improved. Improperly programmed hearing aids and some over the counter PSAPs may not give the benefit you are expecting.
Hearing loss is harmless — think again. Many people think they can power through hearing loss by straining their hearing, using context clues, and turning up the TV very loud. There is now an increasing pool of evidence that hearing loss affects not just your hearing but also many other aspects of physical health, from balance, to heart health, to being prone to physical accidents.
Hearing just goes with age, and there isn’t much you can do about it — it’s true that hearing loss is associated with old age, but that’s also because our hearing apparatus goes through a lot of wear and tear over the years. You can absolutely protect your hearing over the years and keep it healthy longer by limiting your exposure to loud noises and taking care of the rest of your physical health.
Mild hearing loss is not an issue — even mild hearing loss can present challenges. There is no guarantee that your hearing loss will not get any worse, but getting prompt treating could actually help your hearing from deteriorating further, in addition to increasing your quality of life.
We hope this overview of four common hearing health myths will help you when interacting with others who may still believe these things. If you have any other questions about hearing loss, don’t hesitate to contact us!
For most of our patients, hearing aids are a significant investment. That means they have an interest in keeping them functional for as long as possible before having to upgrade to a new set. One question we hear pretty often is, “How can I keep my hearing aids working for as long as possible?” These four strategies should help you get maximum mileage out of yours.
Keep Them Earwax-Free
Your ears naturally produce a certain amount of earwax. (Actually, having a hearing aid in your ear may cause it to produce even more earwax.) Regardless, the way to keep earwax out of your hearing aids is to clean them regularly.
The best thing you can do in this regard is to make cleaning a part of our nightly routine — when you take out your hearing aids for the day, give them a quick cleaning, and they’ll be ready to go for the next day. Doing this is actually much easier than getting behind on the cleanings and then desperately trying to clean built-up earwax from all the nooks and crannies of your hearing aid.
Keep Them Dry
The inner ear is a naturally moist environment, and moisture is a huge culprit in hearing aids breaking down. Using a storage case that is also a dryer and dehumidifier can combat this. We have several in stock that cost around $70—a small investment relative to the price of your hearing aids.
Don’t Lose Them
You would not believe how many patients misplace their hearing aids and need to come in to get another pair from us. The best remedy for losing your hearing aids? Wearing your hearing aids consistently, which means you’ll always know where they are likely to be.
If you always wear your hearing aids, you’ll likely only be taking them off at the end of the day during your bedtime routine, and then you’ll know exactly where you left them, on your bathroom countertop.
Get Them Serviced
Like any other sophisticated apparatus, hearing aids can benefit from the occasional maintenance. Regular clean and checks and maintenance at your audiologist can do just that. You should be seeing your audiologist annually, but more frequent visits like every 4-6 months will ensure the hearing aid is working optimally. This is particularly important with brand new hearing aids that are still being dialed in to perfectly suit you, and also with hearing aids that are nearing the end of their useful life.
Have a question about how to keep your hearing aids in top working condition for longer? We’re here to help! Reach out to us to schedule an appointment!
Repeated exposure to loud noise is one of the most reliable ways to end up with hearing loss. Typically, OSHA sets certain standards for how loud a workplace can be so that employees who work there on a daily basis won’t lose their hearing — there are such things as mandated level of hearing protection.
One workplace that doesn’t get a lot of attention in terms of hearing loss is the armed forces. Being an active duty military person actually increases the chances that you will eventually lose your hearing — there are currently more than 933,000 Veterans receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and nearly 1.3 million receiving compensation for tinnitus.
The military does have standard-issue earplugs, but there are two problems with this: the nature of the military, with 24/7 service under less than ideal conditions and with a ton of stress, are not conducive to soldiers reliably wearing their hearing protection. And, the hearing protection being handed out (those who served in the military between 2003 and 2015 were issued 3M Earplugs) is not necessarily of the highest quality. The result is too many veterans with hearing loss.
What can you do about this? If you’re currently in the armed forces, about to deploy, or know someone who is, consider adding a custom level of hearing protection to help save the person’s hearing. Custom hearing protection will fit better and likely be better at cutting out external noise.
Some other things we would recommend in relation to hearing protection specifically for the military:
- Low profile — so they can fit similarly to the standard-issue earplugs and not draw attention. They’ll also fit better with other pieces of equipment like helmets.
- Tough — the earplugs will obviously be exposed to a wide range of environments and working conditions. You want something that’s not going to pick up dirt right away and become unusable. Ideally, the earplugs will be washable so they can be restored and used again.
- Replaceable — if you’re leaving on a tour of duty, we would say that you should probably bring at least 5 pairs of your custom hearing protection, to account for ones you lose, that break, or other unexpected scenarios. So, in this case, we would actually go with cheaper and more easily replaceable hearing protection, because having more sets on hand is simply better. Of course, soldiers get mail, so it’s always possible to put in an order back home for a few more sets of earplugs when you’re about to run out.
To get yourself or your loved one set up with a set of custom earplugs, reach out to us today!
New hearing technologies have made it easier for those with hearing loss to be able to work in a typical environment. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against qualified employees with disabilities. Nonetheless, those with hearing loss do have some unique challenges when applying for a job. We hope these tips will help you navigate your job hunt more successfully.
First and foremost, whether you have hearing loss or not, you should make sure that the job is a good fit for your skillset. You’ll need to be able to perform the essential duties in the job description.
After you’ve found a position that’s a good fit, it’s time to fill out an application. Applications are not allowed to ask you about disabilities like hearing loss, and you are not required to disclose that information as long as you believe you can perform the job duties.
If you get a call back for an interview, you’ll have to decide at which stage of the process you want to reveal your hearing loss. Because of the ADA, an employer is not allowed to ask you about your hearing loss, but he or she is allowed to ask you if you can perform the essential job functions with or without accommodation.
You may be forced to reveal your hearing loss right off the bat, if you need any special accommodations either for the phone interview or the in-person interview. Your hearing loss may also be immediately apparent if you wear over-the-ear hearing aids.
One good strategy is to tackle your hearing loss and any special accommodations you may need on the job right off the bat in the interview. This clears the air, and you can then move on to other topics. Inevitably, your potential employer will be wondering if you would be able to perform the job duties as well as an employee who doesn’t need additional accommodations. Your best strategy is to convince them that your experience and dedication would make you the better employee. And really, that’s not so different from anyone applying for a new position.
Doing well in the job market as a person with hearing loss is much easier if you’ve received appropriate treatment and have hearing aids designed for your particular type of hearing loss. Contact us today to schedule your next exam and a full evaluation for how we can have you hearing as well as possible!
Tinnitus is a truly strange auditory phenomenon. Usually a result of hearing loss, tinnitus manifests in a ringing noise that can be faint or loud, only there occasionally or frequently, in one ear or both. Based on its severity, people just ignore it, or they can seek treatment. Unfortunately, the best available treatment for tinnitus is cognitive therapy that helps people deal with the symptoms. There is currently no known cure.
By some measures, over 25% of Americans above 65 have tinnitus, and the total number of Americans with the condition is over 30 million. With something so prevalent, you would think that would be more conversations about the condition and its effects.
One particularly dark aspect of tinnitus is that, in severe cases, the sufferer can begin to develop suicidal thoughts. It could be the severity of the condition, the fact that there is no treatment, or some apparatus that we are not currently aware of. But those suffering with tinnitus, even mild versions of it, need to be aware of this aspect of the condition.
The thing to keep in mind is that suicidal thoughts come and go, and feeling that way for a period of time does not mean you will feel the same way forever. The best thing you can do is to get professional help — from a qualified audiologist who may be able to recommend treatment for the tinnitus specifically, but also from a person qualified to deal with those thinking about self-harm.
This is something that is important to know for friends and relatives of those who may suffer from tinnitus. It’s a good idea to check in with your loved one on occasion about the severity of their symptoms and to see if they are getting any treatment or considering talking to a professional. In addition to this, it’s a good idea to check in with them about their mental state. You may have to press here a bit to see if they are willing to open up, but it’s really worthwhile to do this.
Do you or a loved one suffer from tinnitus? The best thing you can do is come in for an exam so you can start treating your tinnitus and get on with your life. Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment!