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Have Yourself a Hearable Holiday | Our List of the Best Wearables

Wearables are commonplace now, from fitness trackers to smart watches. Theyíre more than just technology you can wear, though: A wearable usually has Bluetooth connectivity as well as sensors that track step count, heart rate, and other biometric data. But in the last few years, wearables have migrated ó to the ear and to the wish list.

The Hearable

Thatís right, you can now wear smart technology in your ears. This kind of device is called a hearable. The market is too broad for any one definition to fully describe what a hearable is, but a good working definition is a wireless in-ear micro-computer.

Some hearables are as simple as earbuds that enhance your music-listening experience. Others are hearing aids that double as sophisticated wellness trackers. Below are features youíll commonly find in different hearables.

  • Connectivity. Sync to a smartphone, tablet, or smart home device.
  • Biometric tracking. Track your steps, your heart rate, or even your running pace with sensors embedded in the hearable.
  • Improved sound quality. Drawing on technology used in todayís hearing aids, you can enjoy noise-canceling capabilities or choose how much environmental sound you want. For example, you can allow just enough noise to ensure you remain aware of traffic.
  • Translation. Have a foreign language translated to your native language in real time.

Notable Hearables

What does all this look like in action? Letís check out some of the hearables currently on the market.

Jabra Sport Pace.
Listen to music, talk on the phone, and switch between the two seamlessly during your running workout with these wireless earbuds that connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone. Theyíre sweat and weather resistant and, with the Jabra Sport Life app, you can monitor your pace. These wireless earbuds last up to five hours on one charge, or you can use the rapid-charge feature for when youíre on the go: 15 minutes of charging gives you an hour of battery life.

The Pilot.
These wireless earbuds connect via Bluetooth to your mobile device and allow you to listen to music and phone calls ó and they translate spoken language in real time! The Pilot translates 15 languages and 42 dialects in natural-sounding male and female voices, provides on-screen transcripts, and offers quick access to a dictionary as well as a phrasebook. Plus, they last up to 20 hours on one charge with the portable charger.

Jabra Elite Sport.
Unlike the Jabra Sport Pace, this one is built for professional athletic training. You can still listen to music, talk on the phone, and switch between the two seamlessly, but the Elite Sport also features better moisture resistance, a heart rate monitor, step count, rep count, VO2 measurement, and hear through, which allows you to determine how much environmental noise to filter out. Plus, with the Jabra Sport Life App, you get personalized audio coaching in real time.

AGXs liv AI.
This product is intended for those with a diagnosed hearing loss. These hearing aids stream phone calls, music, and more directly from your mobile devices and offer a rechargeable option. If that werenít enough, they use integrated sensors to monitor brain and body health. The Thriveô app tracks it all, provides wellness scores, transcribes conversations so you can read them, and even translates 27 spoken languages. To top it all off, the devices can detect if youíve fallen and will alert chosen contacts.

Why Do My Ears Itch? | Causes of Ear Itching

Next to pain, itching is probably the most uncomfortable physical sensation we experience. It is annoying, distracting, and in some cases, absolutely maddening. When that itching occurs in a place we can’t reach, it can be difficult to find relief. Our ear canals are the most common place unreachable itching occurs, but most of us don’t give it much thought. Fortunately, most causes of deep ear itching are understood, and there are things we can do to alleviate or even prevent it.


What Causes Itching Sensations in the Ear?

DRY SKIN
In the outer ear, itching is rarely a notable issue, since we can easily rub or scratch that itch away. It is usually caused by dry skin or irritants that come into contact with the skin. It is no different than itching on any other exposed part of the body, but if it becomes a habitual nuisance, applying a bit of mineral oil or Vaseline to the affected area with a cotton swab can help rehydrate the skin and protect it from further irritation.

SKIN CONDITIONS
In addition to the superficial irritation of substances you come into contact with, two of the most common benign skin diseases, eczema and psoriasis, can also affect your ears. If scaling of the skin is present, one of these conditions will be suspected as the cause of your itching. Your hearing care provider and dermatologist can provide solutions.

ALLERGIES
In the inner parts of the ear, causes of itching become a little more complex. One of the most common culprits is allergies. The same histamine response that causes itchy hives on the skin, watery eyes, and sneezing can also cause the eustachian tube (the pathway that connects the ear to the throat) to become inflamed. Most of us will press on our tragus (that small flap of cartilaginous skin near the ear’s opening) and wiggle it vigorously to relieve this sensation, but the best home remedy is to take an antihistamine.

INFECTION
Almost everyone has suffered an ear infection at some point in our lives, and when we think back on this experience, it is usually the pain that we remember the most, but itching can also be an important indicator of bacterial buildup in the middle ear. If the itching you feel is persistent and intense, or is accompanied by a throbbing sensation or feeling of fullness, schedule an appointment with your audiologist or ENT to find out if infection is present. Treating it at this stage can save you from further discomfort down the road.

ANXIETY
You may be surprised to learn this, but simply being nervous, stressed, or feeling “on edge” can cause the ears to itch!


What Can I Do to Relieve Itching?

As mentioned above, medication is usually the best method to relieve persistent itching deep in the ear, but there are also some over-the-counter remedies you can try. Commercial ear drops that dissolve wax can clear the ear of buildup and debris and relieve itching. Taking a hot shower or sipping a hot cup of tea may also help, as the heat dilates blood vessels and improves circulation to the ears. An added benefit of this approach is that it is likely to relax you, which will reduce nervous itching.

Another useful remedy is placing a few drops of 70% rubbing alcohol in the ear. If this causes a burning sensation, that’s another sign of fungal or bacterial infection, which means a visit to your hearing care provider is in order. Even if an infection is not present, your provider may prescribe steroid drops to bring you relief.


Can I Prevent Itchy Ears?

The best way to prevent itching in any part of the ear is to practice good ear hygiene. While we are all tempted to clean our ears at home, this often does more harm than good. No foreign object should ever be inserted into the ear (this means cotton swabs, too!), because this pushes wax deeper into the canal, which can cause everything from painful blockages to that persistent itching we’re trying to avoid. Wax is actually a very important component of ear health; it keeps the inner ear waterproof and resistant to microbes. Gently washing the outer ear with a soft washcloth and warm water will rinse away any excess wax or debris and help keep dermatitis at bay.

If you wear earrings, make sure they are made of a hypoallergenic metal such as pure gold, sterling silver, or titanium, as some other metals (chiefly nickel) can react with the skin and cause itching.
Avoid getting excess water in your ears whenever possible. Swim with your head above the surface and consider wearing a shower cap while bathing. Additionally, switching to a shampoo formulated for sensitive skin can cut down on ear irritation.

When inserting hearing aids or earbuds, or any other device that fits into the ear, do so gently and carefully. It may seem like a small gesture, but anytime we place anything in or near the ear canal, we are potentially disrupting the ear’s natural defenses against invaders.

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.