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.
If you have a parent who has hearing loss, you know that it can be a battle just to get them to acknowledge the issue, then come in for a hearing test, and then get fitted for hearing aids. Once that’s done, you might think you’re out of the woods and your job as a dutiful son or daughter is done.
However, we occasionally hear from the relatives of patients who went through that whole process and their loved ones are just not wearing the hearing aids they have. If that’s the case, it’s not always that the person is bad at following directions. Instead, something else might going on, and the cause is worth investigating. Here are three reasons your loved one might be hesitant to wear their new (or old) hearing aids:
- They’re not effective. If the person doesn’t notice much of a difference in their hearing, they might not be inclined to go through the trouble of wearing hearing aids. If they were just fitted for them, this really shouldn’t be the case, because the audiologist would have used the patient’s feedback in the adjustment of the device. However, if the hearing aids are older, it’s possible that they’re not longer adequately amplifying.
It’s also possible that the hearing aids are not programmed correctly. If this is the case, the audiologist can make changes to the hearing aid programming to help maximize the benefit. Take your loved one in for a checkup and your audiologist will be able to judge whether the hearing aids are functioning or not.
- They offer a poor fit. While helping the patient hear better, the hearing aids have to be worn all day, every day. As such, they need to fit well—otherwise they will be noticeable to the patient and a constant nuisance. Let’s face it—no one wants to wear something that’s uncomfortable all day.
Depending on the model of hearing aid, this could be an easy fix or a more challenging one. Some hearing aids are adjustable, but adjustability only works to a point. Thankfully, we’re seeing a trend that hearing aids across the board are becoming smaller and more comfortable, so if the patient’s hearing aids are a few years old, chances are we can offer them something they’ll find more comfortable to wear.
- They’re afraid of social stigma. Some people don’t want to be seen wearing hearing aids because they feel that it makes them look old, or just different from others. This is a tough one to get around. If you find yourself in this situation, try to make a bargain with your loved one to get them to give the hearing aids another shot. If the hearing aids are doing their job, the improvement in quality of life should be enough to convince them that the trouble is worth it, but people are different. Thankfully, with modern hearing aids being smaller than ever, they also tend to be more discrete and less likely to cause embarrassment.
Whatever the reason, if your loved one isn’t wearing his or her hearing aids, it’s likely time for another trip to the audiologist so the problem can be diagnosed. If you find yourself in this situation, whether the hearing aids were purchased from us or not, contact us to schedule an appointment!
The technology of hearing devices is always evolving. All along, it’s making these devices more effective, easier to use, and more convenient to wear. Here are a few of the features that our customers are loving right now:
- Rechargeable hearing aids — these have been around for a while in one form or another, but for a long time the battery life on the rechargeable units wasn’t great. Now, units exist that allow use all day without the battery getting low, giving patients one less thing to worry about in their day-to-day life.
- Direct iPhone connectivity — no, this technology isn’t brand new, but our patients still love it. Because everyone has a smartphone these days, this presents the perfect platform for being able to control your hearing device. On the other hand, the hearing device is the perfect way to seamlessly use your smartphone via bluetooth, so this is really a match made in heaven.
- Remote fitting and adjustments — The integrations of hearing aids with other technology mean there is now much more flexibility in who can adjust a hearing device, and from where. Your audiologist can get alerts and see how the device is working, and then make periodic adjustments remotely to get it to work even better. Guess what? This means no more stuck in traffic to get to the office for a simple adjustment!
Tired of your existing hearing aids? Want to get the benefits of some of these new technologies? Schedule a hearing exam and we can fit you with new hearing aids!
While we at Chicago Hearing Services love to geek out over hearing health, we realize that that’s (unfortunately) not common for the rest of the world. That’s why it was so exciting to see hearing enter the pubic conversation with the recent “laurel” vs “yanni” debate.
First, some background on how this all started: A few weeks ago, someone was poking around on vocabulary.com and happened to notice that the audio file for the word laurel sounded like “yanni” to them. From there, it ended up on Instagram, and the rest is history.
Everyone chimed in on the debate, from President Trump to Kanye West. The New York Times actually built a tool that manipulates the frequencies in the recording to show how some people might hear one thing while others hear something else entirely. In a poll of half a million people on Twitter, 53% heard laurel, while 47% heard yanni. If you have not heard this conflicting recording click on the audio file below
Why the difference?
It all has to do with the way the listener’s ear is tuned. If their ear tends towards higher frequencies, they’re more likely to hear “yanni”, while if it tends toward lower frequencies, chances are they’ll hear “laurel”. Older people, who are more likely to have lost their hearing for higher frequencies (which go before others) are more likely to hear laurel.
Want to try it for yourself? Try the tool built by the New York Times that helps you modulate the frequencies. Adjust the dial until you hear the two words change. If you adjust precisely enough, you might even hear the words change on each repeat despite the fact that the sound is exactly the same. That’s your hearing playing tricks on you!
So, why is this important?
What this social media phenomenon has so usefully pointed out is that everyone’s hearing is different. As such, it’s important that hearing health professionals consider each patient’s unique needs when treating them to ensure that their hearing treatment plan works for them.
As with many other fields of medicine there is no “one size fits all” solution. Hearing aids aren’t just an amplification tool that you can set and forget. Each individual’s brains react different to amplification and the relationship with the audiologist is vital to the success with amplification. Often, an audiologist adjusts the frequencies on a hearing aid to improve the hearing of the patient as much as possible. That’s also why we’re conflicted about the growing market in hearables. In our opinion, despite their ease of use, these devices will never be able to replace the services of a knowledgeable audiologist when it comes to tuning them to each patient’s unique hearing apparatus.
As you probably know if you’ve read our post Are Hearing Devices (and Hearables) Always Covered by Insurance?, funding a medically-necessary hearing device can unfortunately be difficult for people in certain situations.
For one, most health insurance policies don’t cover hearing aids, and neither does Medicare. The latter can be hard to believe considering the fact that old age is highly correlated with increased risk of hearing loss, but alas, these are the circumstances we find ourselves in. These funding difficulties are almost certainly a part of the reason why only 30% of the 33 million Americans with hearing loss currently use a hearing aid.
If you do find yourself in need of a hearing aid and don’t have the funds to purchase one outright, here are some creative options for getting this crucial piece of medical equipment.
Utilize the Hearing Aid Tax Credit (when it becomes available)
This proposed bill would provide a tax credit of up to $500 per hearing device ($1,000 if two are needed, one for each ear) once every 5 years, for those making less than $200,000 a year. This credit could also be used by persons over 55 years of age for the purchase of a hearing aid. To check on the latest progress of the bill as well as contacting your legislator, visit this page.
Flexible Spending Accounts
Many employers offer a Flexible Spending Account that allows individuals to put money away for medical expenses directly from their paycheck. These funds are contributed on a pre-tax basis, which effectively saves the individual 15% to 25% on medical costs, depending on his or her income bracket. In 2017, the contribution limit was $2,600 per individual.
The trick is that it may take a while to save up a significant amount of money in an FSA, so if you have a hearing test that uncovers the need for a hearing aid, you would have to already have the money put away to get the device right away. Still, if you don’t have any other options, you could wait until your FSA account grows sufficiently, and then get the hearing aid you need with pre-tax earnings.
Chicago Hearing Services is proud to offer 0% APR for 12 months for qualified individuals. It makes it easier for patients to get the hearing aid they need right away and then be able to pay it off over time. This works in the same way as 0% APR on a car purchase or any other large purchase where the manufacturer has an interest in helping people afford it.
If no such options are available, those with good credit may want to consider private financing options. Many credit card companies offer cards with 0% financing for a certain term, sometimes up to two years. That may give you plenty of time to pay off the cost with no extra interested added on. However, those taking that option should be very careful to ensure they can pay off the cost within that time so they don’t have to pay the typically high interest rates that follow.
Lastly, speak with Chicago Hearing Services and Dr. Vetter. There are many alternatives that may help reduce the cost of hearing aids. We have hearing aids that begin at $500 and with different service plans, this can reduce the patient’s cost greatly.
Have a question about how to finance your hearing aid? We’re here to help! Contact us today to discuss!