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The Power of Better Hearing — Micah’s Story

Treating your hearing loss benefits your life in so many ways, from building stronger relationships to advancing your career to discovering your passions and making your dreams attainable. For people born with hearing loss, these achievements are a lifelong testament to the exceptional care and support of their audiologists, as well as the importance of continually investing in better hearing.


From Diagnosis to Acceptance

At a very young age, Micah was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome Type 2A, which is a rare genetic mutation that causes mild to severe hearing loss as well as progressive vision loss. He is going blind from retinitis pigmentosa and has worn hearing aids as long as he can remember.

Growing up with this diagnosis was not easy. “I came to know the difference between the other kids and me when they pushed me down, imitated my slurred speech, and laughed,” he says. “The idea that my impairment signified me as ‘wrong’ rang out in the silence of everything else.”
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But with comprehensive hearing care at the hands of an empathetic provider who truly understood the isolation and social difficulties sensory deprivation can cause, Micah’s condition became manageable.

“I know a world of sound because of an audiologist and her team who were devoted to me for over 20 years — the team that fit me, gave me batteries, reminded me of appointments, cleaned my hearing aids, sent them off for repairs, and knew me as an individual. They have given me courage, confidence, and success. I owe them more than the world.”


From Acceptance to Success

Treating multidimensional sensory loss is not only challenging but requires a dedicated provider willing to work closely with their patient. In Micah’s case, this personal investment in helping him live with his unique diagnosis has allowed a formerly isolated child to blossom into a dynamic and fearless person who faces challenges head-on.

“Growing up empowered to become who I wanted to be, and to experience the world as it should be, had requirements that far exceeded the ‘cheapest available option,’” he says. “Amplification alone is not medical treatment. As my situation worsens, I will place my trust in those with the genuine interest in my situation and well-being, and the confidence to rise to the challenge.”

Micah credits his hearing care team with helping him develop the confidence and social skills necessary to pursue his passions and goals, which include music, poetry, and giving back to the hearing care community.

“I’ve been gifted the opportunity to be a musician, and the reality of everything that I have been gifted, in life and loss, has driven me to give all that I can back to the industry that cares for me,” says Micah. “Today I work hand in hand with private-practice providers around the country to deliver the utmost to each and every patient.”
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“Quite honestly, it took me 20 years to stand up straight to my condition, look it in the eyes, and call it my own. It is my hope that this story will […] act as a reminder of the cause hearing health care strives for.”


Contact us today to share your own experience with better hearing and let us know how it has improved your life!

Hand Dryers: For Kids, Beware the Noise

It’s no secret that hand dryers installed in public bathrooms can seem rather loud, but we were blown away by a young scientist’s findings when she put the volume levels of 44 automated machines to the test in restrooms across Alberta, Canada.

Turns out some of those volumes can do a number on kids’ ears — which are more susceptible to noise-induced hearing problems — by reaching sound levels well beyond the danger zone of 85 decibels. Several of the various brands measured above 100 decibels when in actual use for hand-drying, and one was even greater than 120.

The study, by then-9-year-old Nora Keegan, has captured international attention, with coverage by the New York Times, CNN, Canada’s CBC, and other media outlets. Now 13, Keegan is likely one of the youngest researchers to have her work published in the journal Pediatrics & Child Health.

Per an NPR story, the Calgary student was inspired by the ringing in her ears and other kids’ reactions to hand-dryer noise to get to the bottom of just how loud the dryers — a common presence in public washrooms around the world — can be and whether they might negatively impact hearing ability.

Her research, published this past summer after an approximately 15-month investigation, interestingly noted that some of the automated machines’ higher readings surpassed the legal limit of 100 decibels for peak loudness of children’s toys in Canada.

A few other notable findings from this timely research:

  • “Not all hand dryers are equal in their hearing safety.”
  • Various dryers are potentially louder than some manufacturers’ claims.
  • Dryer noise is “much louder at children’s heights than at adult height.”

According to Keegan, the study’s “results can be used to guide regulators, builders, and landlords in making decisions about which dryers to install in public facilities.” The investigation also highlights “the importance of measuring dryer loudness at the location of children’s ears” — versus that of adults, who are typically taller.


What’s the big deal?

Noise exposure, one of the most preventable risk factors, is a leading cause of hearing impairment — second only to aging. Over a billion children and adults are vulnerable to recreational noise-related hearing impairment alone, per the World Health Organization, making it essential to keep the volume down.

One of the most effective actions you can take is to prevent or limit your child’s exposure to excessively loud noise. Keeping hearing protection on hand — including custom earplugs, headphones, or earmuffs to help temper loud sounds, can also go a long way toward preserving your child’s hearing.

6 Key Hearing Aid Styles to Know

In-the-ear. Behind-the-ear. Receiver-in-the-canal. Completely-in-the-canal. Today’s hearing aids not only offer wireless connectivity, directionality, near invisibility, and clearer sound than ever before, but they also come in a wider variety of styles to match your communication needs.

Good thing, too, because hearing loss affects an estimated 466 million people and counting, making customizable hearing technology an important part of helping the global community connect. What are the main hearing aid styles? Read on for a quick primer to help you stay in the know.


In-the-Canal

This type of hearing aid fits entirely in the ear canal, making it a discreet option that also won’t get in the way of your glasses, hats, or other headwear. It’s available for many types of hearing loss and can be custom-molded to your unique ear shape, ensuring it stays put even when you’re on the move.
 

In-the-Ear

Rather than sitting deep within the ear canal, this hearing aid type sits in your ear canal and part of your external ear. It’s the easiest style to remove, and it can help a diverse range of people thanks to the combination of size, customizable switches, and color options.
 

Receiver-in-the-Canal

With a lightweight feel and flexible fit, this style — also called “receiver-in-the-ear” or “receiver-in-the-aid” — is the most popular. The microphone, amplifier, processor, and battery all sit in a small case that rests behind the ear, delivering sound to the inner ear via a tiny speaker that stays in the ear canal.
 

Behind-the-Ear

This style houses the speaker and microphone inside a shell that sits snugly on the ear while sound travels into the ear canal via acoustic tubing. The device may also have another part to maintain its ear position. It’s one of the most easily adjusted styles, with simple switches to quickly control volume and program settings that better match changes to your surroundings.
 

Invisible-in-the-Canal

This type of hearing aid offers virtual invisibility and clarity in a tiny device that sits even deeper in the ear canal. Its deep placement makes it less susceptible to wind noise, and its self-contained functioning eliminates the need for manual adjustment. It accommodates many degrees of hearing loss.
 

Completely-in-the-Canal

These devices don’t sit quite as deeply in the ear canal as their invisible-in-the-canal counterparts, but they’re among the least visible types, and they provide clear sound. In addition, they come equipped with external switches for more control over your hearing, and they’re Bluetooth compatible.


Which hearing aid style is right for you? It depends on factors such as your hearing range and listening lifestyle. Our hearing care experts can assess your hearing level and work with you to determine the best solution for your individual communication needs. So don’t wait. If you’re having hearing difficulty, contact our team for a consultation today. We’re here to help!

5 Tips to Protect Against Falls

They’re typically unexpected and can happen anytime. They sometimes end with a giggle but often are far more serious. They’re falls, and preventing them can help preserve your health and quality of life. So don’t miss this: We’ve got five simple tips for avoiding hazardous slips!

According to research, falls are more common among people with hearing loss. In one study, patients with mild hearing loss were nearly three times as likely to report a fall in the previous year. Plus, every 10-decibel increase in hearing loss also meant a 1.4-fold increase in the odds of a fall the prior year.

The findings, from researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging, were consistent with past research linking hearing loss and increased risk of falling.

Falls are the second leading cause of accidental death, per the World Health Organization, and they can result in other serious injury or disability. They’re also associated with hearing impairment, which can affect your balance.


Reduce your risk with these five tips:

  1. Get your vision checked, making sure you’re seeing your best.
  2. Be sure to understand how any medications may affect you, including your balance.
  3. Check your surroundings for hazards such as uneven surfaces, slippery floors, small rugs, or unstable handrails.
  4. Help ensure your loved ones and those with disabilities have a safe environment adapted to their physical needs.
  5. Keep your hearing in top shape, starting with hearing exams once a year and whenever you’re having trouble understanding — especially if you’re having difficulty while dining out, watching TV, or talking on the phone.

FALLS: MORE SERIOUS THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

  • An estimated 646,000 individuals each year die from falls.
  • Nearly all hip fractures — over 95% — are attributable to falls.
  • Over 37 million nonfatal falls each year are severe enough to require medical attention.
  • Balance disorders are big contributors to falls among seniors, who suffer the most fall-related fatalities.

Falls can get in the way of your overall wellness and sense of independence. If you’re experiencing balance issues, dizziness, or falls or are having trouble hearing, please don’t wait. Schedule an appointment with our hearing care professionals today.

8 Do’s & Don’ts of Hearing Aid Maintenance this Summer

Enjoying the Sand and Waves? Protect Your Hearing Aids!: 8 Simple Do’s & Don’ts

When it comes to hearing aids, a little TLC can go a long way toward helping them perform their best. Whether your summer includes playing Marco Polo, setting sail, or just catching some sun on the sand, dive into these quick maintenance tips to keep the fun at hand.


DO

consider using a hearing aid dryer or dehumidifier, which not only dries and sanitizes your devices as you sleep but can also double as their regular storage container. Convenient and easy!
 

DON’T

swim wearing hearing aids or allow water and sand on them. Along with using a dehumidifier, wipe your devices daily with a dry cloth to help clear moisture and debris and reduce the risk of damage.
 

DO

keep your hearing aids away from the summer heat, which can do a number on them. Pick a cool, dry area for storage, and avoid leaving the devices in a sunny spot or hot car.
 

DON’T

forget your hearing-aid covers, which can help protect your devices from excess moisture when summer heat and activities lead to sweating. The covers help keep out dust and dirt, too.
 

DO

give your hearing aid batteries a break. Remember at night to remove them from your devices and leave the battery door open, helping reduce moisture and maximize battery life.
 

DON’T

prematurely pull the stay-fresh tab that helps keep new hearing aid batteries from discharging early. Once the batteries activate, they can’t be deactivated, so first be sure you’re ready to use them.
 

DO

regularly change the wax guard, helping protect your devices from damaging buildup of wax, skin particles, and other debris. Putting this task on at least a monthly schedule makes for a timely reminder.
 

DON’T

fit the wrong wax guard to your device. Wax guards come in diverse sizes and types, but not every version is right for your hearing aids. We can provide or help you choose a compatible product.


Summer fun is for everyone, so maximize each day by getting the most from your hearing aids. Think of them as you would your smartphone, keeping them safe from harm’s way, and enjoy your best season yet.

How to Wear BTE Hearing Aids and Glasses

As technology advances and “hearables” become more commonplace, one odd fact emerges: We’re putting more and more things behind or in our ears. Whether glasses, headphones, or the latest discreet behind-the-ear hearing device, the area our ears occupy is starting to get a little crowded.

So that begs the question: Can you wear (sun)glasses and the common BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aid model comfortably and without worry?


Behind the Ear

With all the different hearing aid styles, you might wonder, “There are so many sleek and nearly invisible options on the market, why would someone choose a behind-the-ear model?”

It’s discreet. The great thing about today’s hearing technology? It’s all discreet now. The question is how far you want to go in your discretion. The BTE model tucks unobtrusively between your outer ear and your head. From the side, no one would even know it’s there. And even in the BTE family, there’s now the miniBTE, for an even slimmer profile.

It’s powerful. The BTE is ideal for moderate to severe hearing loss. Other types, such as in-the-canal and in-the-ear, have many strengths, but they may not be ideal for hearing loss greater than a mild to moderate loss.

It’s easy to use. The casing of the BTE is easier to hold and manipulate than the other styles, and it has simple-to-use, easily accessible controls.

It’s comfortable. Many feel the smaller models that sit against or in the ear canal create a plugged-up feeling. In fact, some people have ear canals that are too small to accommodate any model but the BTE.
 

The BTE With Glasses

The following will ensure you thrive with glasses and a BTE hearing aid.
Considerations

  • If you already have BTE hearing aids and have been told you need glasses: Buy frames with thin wire earpieces to minimize the amount of space taken up behind your ear.
  • If you already wear glasses and have been told you need BTE hearing aids: Work with your provider to determine the smallest tube that will work for your situation. A miniBTE might be an ideal option.

Practical tips

  • Put your glasses on first, as they are harder to adjust.
  • After your glasses are secure, carefully place the hearing aid between the glasses earpiece and your outer ear.
  • Adjust both as needed until they are comfortable and the hearing aid isn’t hanging away from your outer ear.
  • In front of a mirror but away from a hard surface, practice removing and putting on your glasses. Use both hands, and only use a straight-forward and straight-back motion. Tilting your glasses up and down or side to side will knock off your hearing aids.
  • Practice, practice, practice. It might sound silly, but muscle memory will be your best friend. While practicing, you’ll knock off your hearing aid, but each time it happens, you’ll learn a little more about the best method to use for your glasses/hearing aid combination. Better to knock them off at home, in a controlled environment and on carpeting, than not to practice at all and have it happen on the sidewalk, at work, or in the backyard.

We’re here to help — let us know if your BTE hearing devices aren’t cooperating with your glasses! And if you haven’t had your hearing checked in a while, contact us today to schedule a hearing evaluation.

The Sound Void: How Hearing Loss Sneaks Up on You

The Sound Void: How Hearing Loss Sneaks Up on You

When you come to your first appointment with us, we encourage you to bring a companion, someone who spends a lot of time with you. Why is that? Because they’re able to give us a different perspective on your hearing loss. In fact, your companion probably noticed your hearing loss — and how it was affecting you — before you did.

But how is that possible if you’re the one with hearing loss?

 

How Sound Works

To begin with, it helps to understand how sound works. Most people think hearing loss is a question of volume. But that’s only part of the story. Sound is a combination of frequency (also called pitch) and intensity (also called loudness).

Frequency

Frequency measures how fast (or how frequently) a sound wave vibrates. High frequency means a high pitch, like the notes on the right side of a piano, and low frequency means low pitch, like the notes on the left side of a piano.

Intensity

Intensity measures loudness. A whisper has low intensity, and a shout has high intensity.

Frequency and Intensity Together

Each sound is a combination of these two qualities.

  • A baby screaming has high frequency and high intensity.
  • A man shouting has low frequency and high intensity.
  • The sound of leaves rustling has high frequency and low intensity.
  • A rumble of thunder has low frequency and high intensity.

 

The Sound Void®

Knowing how sound works helps us understand Sound Voids. We use the term Sound Void to refer to any moment lacking in clarity. Sound Voids have a lot to do with why your companion probably picked up on your hearing loss before you did.

Sound Voids happen all the time: Allergies or a cold affect your ears, leading to increased chance of misunderstanding what people say. Even a buildup of earwax can lead to an increase in Sound Voids.

But Sound Voids are also common with noise-induced or age-related hearing loss. Early on in these types of hearing loss, when someone speaks to you, you miss the high-frequency sounds, such as s, sh, c, ch, p, f, and h. These sounds help you identify words. With those sounds missing, “cat” could be mistaken for “hat” and “pickle” for “fickle.”

With this type of Sound Void, the intensities aren’t the problem — it’s the frequencies. In other words, you can hear people speaking just fine, but sometimes you misunderstand them.

At this early stage, what is actually a hearing loss truly seems to you like a momentary lack of clarity. You assume someone mumbled a little, or there are more people than usual at the restaurant. Loved ones probably think the same thing.
 

The Sound Voids Increase

But as time goes on, the Sound Voids become more frequent, and those closest to you start to notice subtle signs: You turn up the volume on the TV or radio, you need statements repeated more often, and you get tired more easily while socializing in public venues.

Your companion, by this point, has started to wonder if you have hearing loss. Because you’ve developed coping skills, you probably haven’t truly realized how it’s affecting you or your loved ones.
 

The Sound Voids Take Over

Eventually, enough of your hearing is damaged that you’re not just missing frequencies — intensity is now a problem, too. You’re more likely to miss the low-frequency sounds of speech, the ones that provide volume, such as o, i, and j.

At this point, your companion has probably wondered aloud whether you have hearing loss, and you’ve started to realize how your hearing loss is affecting others. This is when many people consider getting their hearing tested.
 

The Hearing Evaluation

This is why the companion is such a key part of the hearing evaluation: They’ve witnessed the early Sound Voids, the gradual behavior changes, how your hearing loss affects those around you, and your realization that you might have hearing loss. Their outside observations are an important complement to your internal observations.

My Tinnitus Has a Melody – Is That Possible? | Musical Ear Syndrome

My Tinnitus Has a Melody — Is That Possible?

You probably know someone who experiences tinnitus — a ringing, buzzing, pulsing, hissing, or humming with no external source. People often call it “ringing in the ears,” and it affects approximately 15% of the U.S. population, according to the American Tinnitus Association.

But did you know some people experience a form of tinnitus in which they hear actual melodies? It’s called musical ear syndrome (or musical tinnitus).

What Is Musical Ear Syndrome?

Musical ear syndrome (MES) is when someone hears music that has no external source. Some people hear a single instrument playing a simple melody; others hear several instruments playing a complex piece of music; and still others hear a voice singing, with or without accompaniment. The most common melodies, however, are hymns, Christmas carols, and patriotic music.

How is this different than when you can’t seem to get a piece of music out of your head? In the case of MES, the melody sounds like it’s coming from an obvious and specific direction, so it’s not clear that it’s internal. It sounds self-evidently external. That’s why, for many people, it can take a while to recognize what’s really going on.

What Causes Musical Ear Syndrome?

When you hear something, you’re experiencing a combination of sound input, interpretations by your brain, and predictions by your brain. Strong sound input reduces the amount of predicting required by your brain.

When you don’t get enough sound input, however, your brain has to do more predicting to make sense of the sound input it is receiving. The more severe the hearing loss, the more the auditory deprivation, and the greater the need for the brain to fill in the gaps. The most common hypothesis about what causes MES is, in layman’s terms, that the brain gets bored through sensory deprivation and starts to generate sound by itself.

Is Musical Ear Syndrome Common?

The few studies published in journals suggest only about 20% of those with tinnitus experience musical ear syndrome — that means about 3% of the general population. It’s most likely underreported, however, because those experiencing MES worry that if they tell someone, they’ll seem mentally unstable.

In fact, Dr. Neil Bauman, who coined the term musical ear syndrome and has been raising awareness about the condition for many years, has heard from so many people affected by MES that he suspects the number is higher than 10% of the general population!

Though tinnitus is more prevalent in men, MES appears to be more prevalent in women.

Is There a Cure?

MES is even less understood than tinnitus. But like tinnitus, there are some ways you can minimize its effects.

Awareness.

For many people, a great deal of stress and anxiety is alleviated when they can put a name to what they’re experiencing. Knowing others experience it also provides relief — it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your MES.

Stress management.

Stress has been shown to make symptoms worse, so finding ways to minimize your stress might minimize the severity of your MES. For example, deep breathing can relax your body, but it also pulls your attention away from the MES, allowing it to fade into the background. Some patients have also had success with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Bring more sound to your environment.

MES is a product of sound deprivation — give your brain plenty to listen to! If you don’t have hearing aids, get some. If you have hearing aids, be sure to wear them as much as possible. Get out in nature and socialize more. Natural sounds and conversations are ideal stimulation for a bored brain.

Adjust your medication.

MES has been reported as a side effect for almost 300 medications, both common and little known. Don’t make any changes on your own, though — consult your doctor if you suspect the MES is a side effect of a current medication.


Musical ear syndrome is real, and it’s more common than you realize. If you or someone you love suspects they have tinnitus — musical or otherwise — contact us today for a consultation!

Why Should You Bring a Companion?

Hearing Care Q & A

Question:
Why Do You Encourage Us to Bring a Companion?

Answer:
The simple answer is that everyone benefits, including your audiologist.

 

Let’s unpack some of the reasons for this:

  1. Hearing loss affects your companion, too
    Once someone suspects they have hearing issues, they’ll wait, on average, seven years before getting a hearing evaluation. One reason is they don’t think it affects the people around them.

    But a study by The National Council on Aging had surprising findings: After study participants with hearing loss began using hearing aids, their family members reported better relationships at home, better feelings of self-worth, better relationships with children or grandchildren, and even better physical health.

    Inviting a loved one shows you recognize that it affects them. It also shows you respect their insight, thoughts, and feelings about this important step you’re taking.

  2. Your companion provides a complementary perspective
    Whether it’s a spouse, a good friend, or a niece, your companion spends a lot of time with you, and their perspective will be a valuable complement to yours. They definitely notice things you don’t, such as how often and how much you turn up the TV. Your companion will also have their own questions based on their experiences with you, which can inform the discussion in ways you’d never have considered otherwise.
  3. Your companion learns more about you
    No matter how close you and your companion are, you probably haven’t discussed in detail how your hearing loss affects you. Sitting in the appointment with you provides them an intimate window into your world. Also, the audiologist can provide your companion a simulation of hearing loss, helping them understand better what you experience day to day.
  4. Your companion is an extra set of ears
    A typical new-patient appointment lasts 60–90 minutes — that’s a lot of information! We explain how hearing works, your specific type of hearing loss, and the best options for moving forward. If we decide together that hearing technology is the best solution, we’ll discuss different styles of hearing devices as well as accessories.

    Having a companion with you means you can focus on what’s being said while they take notes. Alternatively, you can both take notes and compare them afterward; you’re each sure to jot down things the other didn’t.

  5. Your technology can be tailored to the voice you hear the most
    If we decide technology is the best solution, you can bring whoever you’re around the most — a sibling, spouse, a child — to the fitting appointment so we can optimize the technology for their voice.
  6. Your companion can be involved in financial considerations
    Many people want to consult their significant other about major medical decisions. If your significant other is in the office with you, they can be a part of the conversation from the start and ask their questions directly.
  7. Your companion helps us, too
    For us to truly understand your situation and, therefore, truly be of optimal benefit, we depend on the perspective of someone close to you. They know where you thrive, where you struggle, what noises you don’t even realize you’re missing, and how your hearing loss affects others in your life who may not have the heart to tell you how its affecting them. Your input and their input are two sides of one coin, and each is crucial to our understanding of your listening lifestyle.