While hearing aids are great for resolving hearing issues of most people with hearing loss, they are unfortunately insufficient for helping certain more severe cases. In these situations, a cochlear implant may be able to help. But not many people are aware of the benefits of cochlear implants—by one estimate, only 5% of U.S. adults who might benefit from a cochlear implant have one.
What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant works differently than a hearing aid as it is implanted in your ear. An electrode array in the cochlear area of the inner ear stimulates the auditory nerve. Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify the signal in order to work with damaged parts of the ear, the cochlear implant bypasses the parts of the ear that are damaged and goes straight for the auditory nerve and sends an electric signal directly to the auditory nerve, which helps with clarity and with more nuanced types of hearing such as speech recognition.
A microphone and transmitter sits on the outside of the ear, collecting sound from the environment and sending it to the transplant in the inner ear.
Who is a Good Candidate
There are two main factors that make someone a good candidate for a cochlear implant: moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears, and limited benefit from binaural amplification such as that provided by hearing aids. Candidates can be as young as 12 months of age. For adults, even those with moderate hearing loss can be good candidates as long as they have Limited benefit from amplification defined by preoperative test scores of ≤ 50% sentence recognition in the ear to be implanted and ≤60% in the opposite ear or binaurally.
What does a Cochlear Implant Sound Like?
Learning to hear again with a cochlear implant is a process. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine website, “Initially, the most commonly reported sound qualities are described as “mechanical,” “robotic,” “cartoonish” and like people are “talking with marbles in their mouth.” Some patients will only “feel” the stimulation when it is first turned on.”
Over time, as your brain learns to get used to the new input, the inputs get normalized and everything starts to sound much more normal. Usually, this adjustment process takes between six and twelve months. And, let’s not forget, any amount of residual “weirdness” in the hearing process pales in comparison with the alternative, which is not to be able to hear at all.
There’s one bit of good news for patients who are good candidates for a cochlear implant: unlike hearing aids, which are typically not covered by health insurance, cochlear implantation is covered for appropriate candidates by most private health insurance plans, and Medicare and Medicaid.
Think you or a loved one might be a good candidate for a cochlear implant? It all starts with a hearing test, so contact us today to schedule your hearing appointment!
Trouble distinguishing speech in a crowded room is one of the classic early signs of hearing loss. And, believe it or not, even with all the recent advancements in technology, helping those with hearing loss distinguish speech in a crowded room is still a challenge. Dubbed as the “cocktail party problem” (based on one of the classic settings where it usually occurs) this is one of the next frontiers hearing aid manufacturers are working on.
Recently, scientists may have discovered some technology that can help with the cocktail party problem. Using a new technology called “auditory attention decoding” (AAD), which monitors both the listener’s brainwaves and the sound around him or her, the device then triangulates which voice or sound in the room the person is focused on and gives extra amplification to it.
Apparently, the device is able to take all the different audio sources and separate them into different streams. Then, it looks at the person’s brainwaves, which would be trying to decode one particular audio signal. When the device finds a match between an audio signal and what the person is actively trying to listen for, it amplifies that signal.
Cocktail party problem aside, this seems like a pretty important achievement in hearing technology in general, in that it’s able to take direct input from the user about what features of the environment to amplify. It’s amazing to think that a user could be in a room with a hundred different people, but would be able to select exactly which of these people he or she wants to amplify.
Unfortunately, this technology will not be hitting store shelves anytime soon. The study involved technology that is surgically implanted and is not portable. Practical application of these findings will be at least five-to-10 years off. And yet, that’s not such a long time either, for truly groundbreaking improvement in hearing science.
Also, remember that hearing aids are just the device. Proper fitting, counseling on realistic expectations, and understanding active and assertive listening strategies help in the success of hearing better. And that’s what we at Chicago Hearing Services do, to ensure the best possible outcome for each one of our hearing patients. Reach out to us to schedule your hearing appointment!
It’s pretty widely known that hearing loss can’t be reversed. But can treating your existing hearing loss help prevent further deterioration? The answer to this is a complicated one. On one hand, hearing, like eyesight, runs on its own mechanism — wearing a hearing aid or eyeglasses can’t stop the deterioration of your hearing or eyesight, if that’s where things are headed, biologically speaking. But there are a multitude of other benefits of treating hearing loss that do, in a way, help things from getting worse.
For one, hearing loss has been strongly associated with the deterioration of mental faculties in older age. Treatment of hearing loss has been shown to stop and in some cases even reverse this overall deterioration. So, while not preventing further hearing loss specifically, treatment can help to save the overall quality of life of the patient, which is arguably even more important. The hearing loss treatment is simply scaled up if the patient’s hearing gets worse through the years.
But there’s a more direct way that treating hearing loss may help save your hearing. Research shows that partial hearing loss leads to understimulation of the auditory nerve, the main nerve involved in transferring sounds from the apparatus of the inner ear to the brain. So, because the input is inadequate, the patient could actually lose more underlying function in the auditory nerve — a classic “if you don’t use it, you lose it” scenario. But treating hearing loss promptly as it occurs can fix the input issues and at the very least ensure that the auditory nerve is properly stimulated and fully functional, keeping the hearing problems localized to the apparatus of the inner ear.
So, the answer to the question of whether you should treat your hearing loss sooner rather than later is a resounding “Yes!”. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!
Chicago Hearing Services is proud to announce the addition of Dr. Emily Dudley to our practice!
Emily Dudley, AuD is a recent Graduate of Pacific University’s accelerated Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program.
She grew up in Bend, Oregon and spent the last year working at a non-profit hearing and speech center in Portland, Maine. Dr. Dudley earned her undergraduate degree from Portland State University in Speech and Hearing sciences. Dr. Dudley is passionate about personalized, patient centered hearing health care. Dr. Dudley also loves working with the treatment of childhood hearing loss and American Sign Language.
Outside of the office Emily likes to read and spend time with her French Bulldog, Papi.
She will be a great addition, and we hope you will stop in to meet her or make an appointment with her.
Did you know that veterans are one of the most common demographics with hearing loss? Whether it’s live combat or one too many training exercises, the loud noises associated with live or practice ammo without proper hearing protection can lead to some level of hearing loss.
Veterans almost always qualify for hearing services through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which solves one of the most common issues relates to getting treatment for hearing loss: the cost. In 2014, nearly a million Veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and over 1.2 million received compensation for tinnitus.
To get coverage, the veteran basically just needs to prove that the hearing loss was caused by the military service. This takes a 3 step process:
- A hearing test. The VA requires two distinct tests: a Maryland CNC test that measures speech recognition, and a puretone audiometric test that is used to measure the level of hearing loss. This exam is arranged through the VA system and is done by a highly qualified and specially trained audiologist.
- Evidence of hearing loss-related event. This doesn’t have to be too formal—basically, you need to prove that you were around loud sounds during your time in the service. This shouldn’t be very hard for anyone who underwent training, let alone active service.
- A doctor’s opinion linking the event to the hearing loss. This is again done at the appointment that is arranged through the VA system. If you want an independent opinion to provide to the VA, this is something we can help with.
The only other challenge to getting veterans the hearing help they need is just general awareness of the issue. Like many older people, veterans may just not be aware that they’re gradually losing their hearing. Or, if hearing loss is common in their social circle (which unsurprisingly can include other veterans with hearing loss). Finally, like anyone else, veterans may dread the supposed stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. Thankfully, hearing aids are becoming more and more accepted these days as the technology is making them both more discreet and more effective.
A Word About Tinnitus
Tinnitus affects about 1 in 10 American adults today, but it’s also the number-one disability among United States Veterans. Patients suffering from tinnitus hear a high pitched ringing or buzzing sound on occasion. This can vary greatly in frequency and severity, and so, many people are able to live with it quite easily while others find it debilitating. Unfortunately, there are no known treatments for tinnitus, but certain therapies are showing promise in being able to manage its occurrence.
At Chicago Hearing Services, we’re proud to serve a large number of veterans. If you’re a veteran and are experiencing hearing loss, or if you know a veteran who you think shows the classic symptoms of hearing loss, please get in touch with us to schedule an appointment! We will do everything we can to help you hear better, and we swear, once you hear the difference, you’ll wish you had come in for a hearing test and treated your hearing loss much earlier!
A recent article on healthyhearing.com drew some interesting parallels between hearing loss and rare health disorders. By one estimate, as many as 30 million Americans currently live with a disease that is considered rare (there are about 7,000 of these diseases). Many of them are autoimmune or linked to genetic causes.
What’s really interesting is that over 400 of these diseases are associated with hearing loss as well.
Some of these disorders with a hearing loss component include:
- Mondini dysplasia – babies with this disorder have one and a half coils in the cochlea instead of the normal two and as a result have profound hearing loss. This could be the case in one ear or both.
- KID syndrome, Donnai-Barrow syndrome, and Wildervanck syndrome – also feature hearing loss in infants.
- Krabbe disease – babies can hear fine right out of the womb, but usually develop hearing loss in the first six months.
- Alport syndrome – takes longer to affect the hearing, as long as late childhood or early adolescence.
- Usher syndrome – can lead to three different types of hearing loss, depending on the onset and severity of symptoms. It is also accompanied by vision loss and balance issues.
- Auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder – involves a failure to transmit signals from the inner ear to the brain, resulting in, among other things, mild to severe hearing loss.
- Waardenburg syndrome – features hearing loss in 80+% of patients.
- Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease – causes inflammation of melanocytes which are present in the inner ear, leading to mild to severe hearing loss.
- Cogan’s syndrome – another autoimmune disorder that can affect the structure of the inner ear and lead to hearing loss.
Occasionally, it will be the discovery of hearing loss that tips parents off to the presence of the other disorder. But more frequently, hearing loss may go unnoticed while parents are dealing with a more obvious and rare disorder.
It’s not a given that these disorders will affect hearing from birth. So, a baby could pass its hearing screening at birth, only to have its hearing deteriorate later on. Parents of children with a rare disorder should do regular hearing tests because even when dealing with a serious disorders, something as simple as correcting one’s hearing could have a dramatic impact on the patient’s quality of life.
If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from one of these disorders and you suspect they might be experiencing hearing loss, get in touch with us to schedule a hearing test!
Hearing aid technology has certainly come a long way over the past few years. Hearing aids are smaller, more foolproof, and work significantly better than they did in the recent past.
But there’s another very exciting development — the integration of hearing aids with the very powerful technologies available in the mobile devices we carry around with us every day.
And we’re not talking about just using the bluetooth functionality to make a phone call and put it through to your hearing aid, as helpful as that is. The integration of these devices can also collect data from the user on an ongoing basis and has much promise for learning more about how hearing correction works, what environments it faces, and how it can be better.
Think about it this way: Self-driving cars have recently gone from science fiction to a definite reality. To perfect their algorithm, self-driving cars continuously collect data from the environment. All the different situations a certain car faces can be used to improve its operation in the future, and this happens on an ongoing basis. Data is even shared between cars so that every electric car can learn from situations that one car has been in.
The same thing may soon be happening with hearing aids. Indeed, Apple recently announced that it will be adding hearing aid integrations to its HealthKit ecosystem of apps. Apple has been taking steps to add more and more integrations to HealthKit, calling it “modern storage for high-frequency health data types” and “how to bring an entire new dimension of health to your users with new support for hearing health”.
How exactly this will take shape is not certain, but the gist of it is that very valuable data about a hearing aid wearer’s experience will now be stored so that the patient and his or her audiologist can benefit from analyzing it. Sometimes, in cases like this, it’s not even certain where the data might lead—it’s necessary to collect it first, then process it and see what comes out of it on the other end.
Some of these integrations have already existed via apps by the hearing aid manufacturers. For example, with some hearing aids audiologists are already able to download data about their functionality. However, the game changer here is the ubiquity of the Apple HealthKit system, and just how many adopters there are likely to be.
It’s uncertain where all this will go, but it’s virtually guaranteed that hearing patients everywhere will reap the benefits.
Hearing loss has been decidedly linked to developmental delays in children. Because children usually aren’t aware enough to notice the hearing loss and alert their parents, parents need to be vigilant for some of the classic signs of hearing loss in their children and test them as soon as they notice something might be off.
Hearing loss can really have a major impact on the entire life of a child. First of all, hearing loss leads to delayed language and expression. This, in turn, almost universally leads to lower academic achievement. Lower communication skills also lead to social isolation. The combination of low academic and social achievement usually leads to poorer career choices, and this could determine the trajectory of a person’s life even if the hearing loss is eventually discovered and treated.
There are a number of deleterious effects to hearing loss, according to ASHA. Here are just a few of them:
- Vocabulary develops more slowly in children who have a hearing loss.
- Children with a hearing loss learn concrete words like cat, jump, five, and red more easily than abstract words like before, after, equal to, and jealous. They also have difficulty with function words like the, an, are, and a.
- The gap in vocabulary between children with normal hearing and those with a hearing loss widens with age. Children with a hearing loss do not catch up without intervention.
- Children with a hearing loss have difficulty understanding words with multiple meanings. For example, the word bank can mean the edge of a stream or a place where we put money.
- Children with a hearing loss understand and create shorter and simpler sentences than children with normal hearing.
Poor Sentence Structure
- Children with a hearing loss often have difficulty understanding and writing complex sentences, such as those with relative clauses (“The teacher, whom I have for math, was sick today”) or in the passive voice (“The ball was thrown by Mary”).
- Children with a hearing loss often cannot hear word endings such as -s or -ed. This leads to misunderstandings and misuse of verb tense, pluralization, and possessives, as well as non-agreement of subjects and verbs.
- Children with hearing loss have more simple sentence structure and are not as complex
Difficulties with Speech
- Children with a hearing loss often cannot hear quiet speech sounds such as “s,” “sh,” “f,” “t,” and “k” and therefore do not include them in their speech. Thus, speech may be difficult to understand. As the hearing loss severity increases, speech intelligibility decreases.
- Children with a hearing loss may not hear their own voice when they speak. They may speak too loudly or not loud enough. They may have a speaking pitch that is too high. They may sound like they are mumbling because of poor stress, poor inflection, or poor rate of speaking.
Lower Academic Achievement
- Children with a hearing loss have difficulty with all areas of academic achievement, especially reading and mathematical skills.
- Children with mild to moderate hearing loss, achieve one to four grade levels lower, on average, than
- their peers with normal hearing, unless appropriate management occurs.
- Children with a severe to profound hearing loss usually achieve skills no higher than the third- or fourth-grade level, unless appropriate educational intervention occurs early.
- The difference in academic achievement between children with normal hearing and those with a hearing loss usually widens as they progress through school.
- The level of achievement is related to parental involvement and the quantity, quality, and timing of the support services children receive.
Difficulties with Social Functioning
Children with a hearing loss often report feeling alone, without friends, and unhappy in school, particularly when their socialization with other children with a hearing loss is limited.
With this laundry list of potential issues, parents should really play it safe and bring their children in for a hearing test if they have even an inkling that there might be hearing loss. Early detection and intervention can negate some of these hearing loss issues. Don’t wait, schedule an appointment with us now!
We spend most of our time discussing how treating hearing loss can improve overall quality of life and also help the patient feel more connected to their friends and community. For example, recently there have also been an increasing number of articles linking hearing loss to early onset of dementia, and showing how hearing aids can help to delay the onset of mental deterioration.
However, hearing aids also have a much more practical and immediate benefit—they can help the patient avoid the potential for physical injury that comes with hearing loss.
It’s easy to underestimate the important part our hearing plays in our day-to-day safety. Hearing can help us sense danger before it happens so we can get out of the way. The hearing apparatus in our ear also plays a major role in our sense of balance and orientation.
People with hearing loss are at an increased risk of falling, which could easily lead to broken bones (especially in the elderly), traumatic brain injury, or worse. Hearing is also extremely important in being able to go through life confidently and safely when doing things like driving, crossing the street, or riding the elevator.
In addition to this, trying to hear things when suffering from hearing loss puts a lot of strain on the brain of the individual. This could lead to decreased performance on other important brain tasks, such as orientation and balance. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids lowers the cognitive load of the patient, freeing up more mental energy for those other crucial tasks.
One recent study out of Washington University in St. Louis found that patients who had hearing loss and had hearing aids had measurably better balance than those with hearing loss and without hearing aids. The study showed that sound information we receive from the environment contributes to maintaining our stability completely separately from the balance system of the inner ear.
Another significant study, published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, looked into whether hearing played a role for the 6.6 million U.S. adults who experienced accidental injuries annually between 2007 and 2015. The study found that compared to those with normal hearing, those with “a little trouble” hearing were 60 percent more likely to have been injured, those with “moderate trouble” were 70 percent more likely, and those with “a lot of trouble” hearing were 90 percent more likely to have been injured.
These numbers are remarkable, and should worry anyone who has loved ones who they suspect may have hearing loss and have not been treated. If you suspect your loved one may be suffering from hearing loss, the best thing you can do is get their hearing tested and corrected. That way, you’ll be able to avoid the extra risk of these types of physical injuries. Have a question? Contact us today!
Because of the costs associated with hearing aids, many patients who wear them don’t consider replacing them until something goes wrong. But your hearing is a dynamic sense and your needs may change over time—and this can happen before your current hearing aids wear out.
Here are five ways to know it may be time to replace your hearing aids.
1. They don’t work reliably.
Your hearing aids may work OK most of the time, but occasionally go in and out or make strange noises. If this is happening, you’ll have to decide when it’s a significant enough problem to address by either getting them professional repaired or (more likely) replacing them with a newer pair. Another thing you may notice is that you are not hearing as well. You or your loved ones may notice you are asking them to repeat more often. You may also notice you are straining to hear more than before. This could be a sign that the hearing aids are not working at their full potential.
2. They no longer suit your needs.
Your hearing aids might be working just fine, but you might be noticing that you just can’t hear things as well as when you first got them from your audiologist. If that’s the case, it could very well be that your hearing needs have changed. You could ask your audiologist to readjust your hearing aids, but that may or may not solve the problem. If adjustments aren’t enough, you may need a new pair that will better suit your unique hearing loss.
3. They don’t fit with your lifestyle.
Say you got a new mobile phone that your old hearing aids can’t pair with. There comes a time when that’s inconvenient enough to warrant upgrading to a different style or technology of hearing aid. Or, if you decide that you want to exercise more and your hearing aids aren’t staying in place while you’re on the move, maybe you want to get a pair that better suits your lifestyle.
4. You want to switch aesthetics.
Hearing aid design has come a long way in the past few years, and it’s possible that you’ll spot a set of hearing aids that looks a lot “cooler” than your current ones. Depending on what your budget looks like, you may want to consider upgrading in order to get a model you find more visually appealing. After all, you wear your hearing aids all day, every day.
5. Your batteries are causing your problems.
Are you finding yourself switching batteries too often or randomly running out of power in the middle of the day? Like any other electronic device, hearing aids suffer from rechargeable batteries that lose their effectiveness over time. There are now many choices for rechargeable hearing aids and hearing aid batteries and t it may be worth considering the cost of a new hearing aid, especially if you’re also experiencing any of the other 4 issues above.
Are you on the fence about whether you need new hearing aids or not? Let’s talk about it. Reach out to us to schedule an appointment!