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Support the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act

Together, let’s make hearing and balance care more available to all.

We’d love to have your support for the proposed Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act (MAASA)! This groundbreaking bipartisan legislation in Congress could make it easier for community members to access the quality hearing care they need, and you can help.


Did you know?

An estimated one-third of adults over age 65 live with disabling hearing loss, per the World Health Organization, yet only a fraction of those who could benefit from solutions such as hearing aids actually use them.

Does lack of access play a role in some cases?

Possibly. The good news is that MAASA — which builds on a prior proposal, the Audiology Patient Choice Act, considered in 2018 — may open needed hearing and balance evaluation and treatment to more people nationwide, helping folks improve not only their communication and vestibular health but overall wellness and quality of life.

The proposal involves two identical bills in the House and Senate — H.R. 4056 and S. 2446, respectively. In a joint statement from Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office, Republican Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) noted, “Seniors who suffer from hearing conditions shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to see their preferred audiologist. [MAASA] cuts through the red tape to help Medicare patients access quality, affordable care.”

Specifically, the proposed law:

  • Facilitates direct access for audiology services, eliminating the requirement for a physician order
  • Allows audiologists to be paid for all services — including treatment — rather than just diagnostics
  • Changes the status of audiologists within Medicare from “supplier” to “practitioner”

Why does it matter?

Typically anyone can seek an audiologist’s care without a physician order, but such an order is required for Medicare Part B participants. This creates a potential barrier for people 65 and older who need professional hearing and balance help.

If enacted, the legislation would remove this hurdle, empowering patients with more choice in finding and selecting qualified, licensed professionals for Medicare-covered audiology services. Medicare Part B participants would be able to walk through our doors just as their privately insured peers — and those with Medicare Advantage or VA benefits — can.


You can help widen access to hearing care for yourself and your loved ones by supporting this important legislation.

The Academy of Doctors of Audiology’s letter campaign makes it quick and easy to make your voice heard with just a few clicks on your keyboard. So don’t wait. Please join us in this critical effort today!

Why Can’t I Understand the Pastor’s Sermon?

1150137_87405924As part of the Four-Step Process that we conduct with our patients at their initial consultation, we ask our patients to tell us where they most want help hearing. One of the most common situations mentioned is church, specifically when it comes to hearing a pastor’s sermon.  While hearing aids can make improvements in this situation, patients should still have realistic expectations of the capabilities of their technology in these types of settings.

Notoriously Poor Acoustics

One reason why church auditoriums and sanctuaries can cause problems with hearing aids is that the acoustics in these rooms tend to be extremely poor.  These environments typically have high, peaked ceilings, a large volume of space, and highly reflective surfaces and walls.  The result is a prolonged reverberation time that “smears” speech by eliminating the stops and gaps that allow recognition of the end and beginning of individual words.  Additionally, any vaults or peaks in the ceiling can cause dead spots or hot spots in the room, depending on the geometry of the space.  To complicate matters, ambient noises like a cough or rustling paper reverberate through these rooms as well, making it even harder to distinguish speech sounds.

In these kinds of environments, a person’s hearing loss is compounded by the poor acoustics.  Even people with normal hearing are likely to struggle to some degree in such a situation, though their auditory processing systems are better at interpreting the sounds they hear than someone with hearing loss.   A pair of hearing aids, even those that are appropriately fit to a patient, might not be enough to help because the quality of the sound they receive is poor due to the physics of the environment.

What Can Help?

The most effective method of improving sound quality in one of these kinds of rooms is the use of an induction loop system, also called a hearing loop.  The hearing loop encircles the congregation’s seating area with a magnetic field.  In order to make use of this field, a hearing aid must be equipped with a telecoil enabled for use with a separate program from the hearing aid’s every day settings.  This method allows the audio signal of the pastor’s voice to be sent directly to the hearing aid, effectively bypassing any reverberation in the auditorium. Many churches that use a hearing loop system also have small box-shaped receivers that allow the system to be used by congregants who either don’t have hearing aids or who don’t have telecoils in their hearing technology.

Another method of managing sound in large auditoriums for a person wearing hearing aids is to use directional microphones.  Any digital hearing aid that has directional microphones can programmed to use those microphones to focus solely in front of the hearing aid wearer.  The end result is that ambient noise is greatly reduced and reverberation may be reduced slightly.  The effectiveness of this method can be increased if hearing aid wearers position themselves directly in front of the loud speakers to receive the sound before the reverberations occur.  This is not nearly as effective as a hearing loop system, but can increase the benefit of hearing aids in this situation, especially when the hearing aid does not have a telecoil.

Realistic Expectations

Even with the most sophisticated technology, relying on hearing aids alone might not be enough in a church auditorium or sanctuary.  As discussed above, it is the physics of the room that is the primary source the difficulty rather than the hearing impairment itself.  In such cases, it is very important to have realistic expectations of what a hearing system and hearing technology can do and what it cannot do.  It is also very important to inform your hearing care professional of the difficulties you encounter in these situations so that they can work with you and your technology to effectively adjust and program your technology to better meet your needs.

New Year, New You! Better Hearing Event

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Rediscover joy and put laughter back in your life!

The opportunities for better hearing have never been better, and there are more discreet and comfortable hearing aid options than ever before. The newest devices offer sleek and comfortable technology choices that conform to the shape of yoru ears do deliver sound as naturally as possible. Feedback cancellation, voice recognition, and a strong battery life are just a few of the features these devices offer in helping you experience better hearing conveniently, effectively, and discreetly.

As AudigyCertified professionals, we know that you are looking for the absolute best in hearing care. Our entire team works to provide you with solutions specific to your own personal lifestyle and hearing situation. If your solution is a hearing system, our AGX advanced digital hearing instruments provide superior performance, comfort, and, in many cases, a nearly invisible appearance. Plus, our affordable payment options make better hearing attainable.

Your hearing treatment plan is so much more than technology. It is our philosophy that when you hear well, you live well. Our team will give you the tools, advice, and personalized care to truly achieve better hearing.

Call today to schedule an appointment during our “New Year, New You!” Better Hearing Event, continuing through January 25th, and take advantage of our $500 First-Time User Credit* or our $500 Trade-Up Allowance*. Don’t wait to hear what you’ve been missing!

 


*Offers good toward the purchase of an AGX5, 7, or 9 two-device hearing system and cannot be combined with any other promotional discount.

When Hearing Aids Are Not Enough

Original content found on the Hearing Care Blog

For the most part, recent advancements in hearing aid technology have made it easier for more people who struggle with hearing loss to communicate.  Hearing aids themselves have become smaller and more adaptable to most types of hearing loss, but sometimes hearing aids are still not enough. As people continue to live longer, more vibrant lives, they may find that they have to be able to effectively listen and communicate in more diverse situations. Poor environmental acoustics, heavy background noise, listening at a distance, classrooms, boardrooms, and other difficult listening environments can sometimes overwhelm the capabilities of even the most sophisticated hearing aids and dramatically affect their efficiency.  Hearing Assistive Technologies (HATs) are a great solution in these difficult environments where hearing aids need a little help of their own.

What are HATs?

Hearing Assistive Technologies (HATs) are devices that can be used with or without hearing aids to help with daily communication. These devices make hearing and listening easier for people that may struggle with hearing and understanding speech, particularly in diverse listening environments. The various HATs can be used to help improve many situations, such as face-to-face communication and reception of electronic media, such as telephone, radio and television.

Wireless Connectivity

The most recent additions to the broad range of HATs are devices that add wireless connectivity options to hearing aid systems. Nearly every hearing aid manufacturer has developed some sort of connectivity package, and most use one of three methods: Bluetooth, near field magnetic induction, or radio signals in either the very low or very high frequencies. These systems allow hearing aid users to connect their hearing aids directly to phones, TVs, music players, and microphones to improve the performance of the hearing aids. Most of these systems require an adaptor device for the hearing aids, such as a remote or streamer, and a microphone or transmitter adaptor to attach to an audio source.  The advantages of such systems are that the wearer can set his or her own volume for television and radio, listen to phone conversations in both ears, and eliminate most background noise in one-on-one communication. Connectivity packages can sometimes be intimidating for patients who are not technologically savvy, as they can include quite a few extra gadgets.

Induction loop systems are growing in popularity and have been installed in many high-traffic areas.  This symbol indicates that an induction loop is available for the hearing impaired.
Induction loop systems are growing in popularity and have been installed in many high-traffic areas. This symbol indicates that an induction loop is available for the hearing impaired.

Induction Loop Systems

Induction loop systems are most widely used in large-scale settings, such as airports and auditoriums. They have the ability to magnetically transmit a signal directly to a personal headset or a telecoil in a hearing aid. Venues that employ induction loops typically display a notification symbol to inform patrons of the loop’s availability. Induction systems and telecoils can also be used in the home on a smaller scale to improve hearing while using a telephone or watching television. For in-home applications, the induction loop can sometimes be a more cost-effective and user-friendly connectivity option than other systems.  In order to use an induction loop system, a hearing aid must be equipped with a telecoil and programmed for its use.

Personal Frequency Modulated Systems

Personal Frequency Modulated (FM) systems can be utilized in a variety of situations in which communication is critical, including boardrooms, classrooms, and one-on-one communication. FM systems are similar to induction loop systems but are typically used on a smaller scale. These devices reduce the effects that reverberation and background noise can have on the transmission of a speech signal. The FM system consists of a microphone and transmitter worn by the speaker and a receiver device used by a listener. This receiver can either be a personal headset or a boot on the bottom of an FM-compatible BTE or RIC hearing aid. FM systems are very reliable and often have better sound quality than other systems, but they also tend to be more cost-prohibitive.

An appropriately chosen and programmed HAT system can be a very helpful component of any hearing treatment solution, particularly when a person’s lifestyle needs include situations that can easily overwhelm the capabilities of hearing aids to reduce noise and enhance speech.  Just like hearing aids, HAT systems should be customized by a qualified hearing professional to meet a patient’s lifestyle needs.  To learn more about HAT systems, call our office and schedule an appointment.

Hearing Loss is More Common than You Think

From the Hearing Care Blog

SpeakerCraft TV Speaker with tv no grille
Is your TV so loud that your neighbors are getting the benefit of your new satellite dish?! Hearing loss is a very common health concern in the United States today – in fact, it’s the 3rd most prevalent chronic health condition in our country, ranking only behind arthritis and high blood pressure. So, if this health care concern is so prevalent, will your primary care physician recommend a screening? Chances are, no.  Amazingly, only 13% of primary care physicians routinely send their patients for hearing evaluations or screenings – which means that almost 90% of patients are not directed to evaluate their hearing, and may be overlooking a healthcare concern that has big consequences.

Hearing loss is no laughing matter.

Failure to regularly assess hearing is a costly error for patients, their families, and for society at large. We now have a great deal of research available regarding the consequences of untreated hearing loss (isolation, fall risk, relationship to cognitive problems, quality of life, and even links to reduced income level and failure to find or keep your employment). Each year, unaddressed hearing loss costs the US economy alone billions (yes, I said billions) of dollars in employee/business/health care related issues.

The resistance factor.

So, physician referral aside, why don’t more folks seek out hearing screenings, or appropriate hearing devices to address hearing loss on their own? If you know someone who is beginning to develop hearing loss, perhaps you’ve run up against this challenge. Suddenly, the person you know and love becomes accusatory (“you’re mumbling”), demanding (“don’t talk to me with your back turned”), and irritable (“you don’t have to shout at me!”).  We all giggle about spouses with “selective hearing”, but it’s important to remember that in couples where one person has unaddressed hearing loss and the other does not, this one-sided deficit can take a terrible toll on the relationship itself. Did you know that the divorce rate is actually significantly higher in those marriages? Again, not really very funny.

Why do people postpone getting a simple, painless, hearing test?

Well, consider that in most cases, hearing loss develops very gradually. The change can be so subtle that the person with hearing loss actually loses their frame of reference for normal loudness. While their communicative counterpart is frustrated to the max, the person with hearing loss may be blissfully unaware of what they’re missing. Additionally, in our youth oriented culture, hearing loss is often equated to aging, and sometimes people struggle with accepting that time is passing (and they are aging!). But in actuality, this is not a fair assessment. The fact is that today, noise exposure has replaced aging as the number one cause of hearing, and we live in a very noisy world. Just because you didn’t work in a noisy factory or serve in the military doesn’t mean you haven’t been exposed to damaging noise. Hair dryers, jet skis, yard equipment, and loud music are culprits for causing hearing loss, too.

Sometimes people worry about the cost of hearing devices themselves, which is a legitimate concern. Hearing devices can be costly, but given the amount of use (7 days a week, at least 8-10 hours a day), the cost is relatively modest as compared to the overall communication benefit, and the costs of say, an automobile. Those with hearing loss will likely use their hearing devices many more hours than their car.

Since hearing devices often represent a significant investment in healthcare, choose your hearing healthcare provider carefully.

If you’ve never had your hearing evaluated, seeing an audiologist who can determine whether or not your hearing loss needs medical treatment is very important. Also, if you have budget limitations, it becomes paramount to get the most value for monies expended. In other words, you want to be certain you purchase the right product for  you, and a Board Certified Audiologist can be a tremendous advocate in that regard.

So if the TV in your house is consistently louder than it should be, make sure that you and your family have your hearing evaluated by an audiologist, and follow their recommendations for improving your hearing health. You (Bettie Bortin Au.D, F.A.A.A.and you neighbors and family members) will be glad you did!

About the Author

Bettie Borton, Au.D., F.A.A.A

Dr. Bettie B. Borton is a licensed audiologist in Alabama, and was the first audiologist in Montgomery to hold certification by the American Board of Audiology, and is the only audiologist with such certification in private practice in this area.

Overcoming the Social Stigma of Hearing Loss

From the Hearing Care Blog:

The social stigma of hearing loss

Its been with us since the beginning of time

The stigma associated with hearing loss can be a big obstacle for individuals who need help to hear better. Some individuals are afraid to take the next step because of how they think their friends, family, or acquaintances may view them. Negative stereotypes and prejudices have followed hearing loss for years, and it surprises me how many people still associate those misperceptions to hearing loss. In the past, perceptions of hearing loss were associated with “old age”, poor communicators, social awkwardness, low cognition, etc. The truth is hearing loss has been around since the beginning of time and as education and research has become more abundant, the negative stigma associated with hearing loss is starting to change.

Hearing loss does not only affect those individuals who are “older” in age; it affects infants, children, teens and adults in all age ranges. Technological advancements have helped to identify newborns with hearing loss within hours of being born. In the past, you would never see a toddler walking around with hearing aids, now they are.

Allowing the old stigma of hearing loss to influence the acceptance of help can be very detrimental to a person who needs it. Hearing loss is an invisible impairment that individuals try to conceal from others. When hearing loss is concealed, individuals can become increasingly withdrawn from social interaction with friends and family. It can also lead them on a path to depression. Most individuals who have a hearing loss will feel alone and isolated unless they confront it by getting help. Truth is, once someone has a hearing loss and uses hearing aids, they not only realize how much they were missing, but they start to notice how many other people wear them.

Overcoming the stigma associated with hearing loss can be very difficult, especially for someone who has been diagnosed with a hearing loss. If you are affected by the stigma associated with hearing loss, try to observe how the hearing loss is affecting you at home, work or in leisure time. Weigh the pros and cons of hearing better vs. missing out on conversation. Identify the main emotion that holds you back from getting help and address it. Hearing aids are continuing to shrink in size because of desire for invisibility.  Get involved with organization such as the Hearing Loss Association of AmericaHearing Like Me and local support groups. Nobody should feel alone with his or her hearing loss.

If you feel that you are having trouble hearing or accepting a hearing loss diagnosis, ask your audiologist for information on support groups, organizations or websites that can help. We are here to help and support you with all of your hearing needs.

This article re-distributed with permission from The Hearing Rehab Center blog. Visit their site to learn more about hearing care services in the Denver, CO area.

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month – Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss

From the Better Hearing Institute

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or is showing signs of dementia, a thorough hearing check is in order.

Studies suggest that hearing impairment contributes to the progression of cognitive dysfunction in older adults. If not managed, as for example with hearing aids, hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language and sound.

When an individual has both Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, many of the symptoms of hearing loss can interact with those common to Alzheimer’s, making the disease more difficult than it might be if the loved one has been treated for hearing loss.

When left unaddressed, hearing loss can compound the difficulties that people with Alzheimer’s and their families already face. But in many cases, the appropriate use of hearing aids can benefit people with hearing loss, including those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, increased risk to personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, and diminished psychological and overall health.

A comprehensive hearing assessment should be part of any medical evaluation prior to the evaluation of dementia. By addressing the hearing loss, quality-of-life for those who have Alzheimer’s can be improved and they can live life as fully as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Today, an estimated 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and they are supported by nearly 15 million caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)

There are 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs, please see a doctor. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for the future.

o Memory loss that disrupts daily life
o Challenges in planning or solving problems
o Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
o Confusion with time or place
o Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
o New problems with words in speaking or writing
o Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
o Decreased or poor judgment
o Withdrawal from work or social activities
o Changes in mood and personality

For more information about the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease, early detection and diagnosis, contact the Alzheimer’s Association toll-free Helpline at (800)272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/10signs.

Hear What You’ve Been Missing!

Some of the newest technology is so small that it is practically invisible. Whether behind the ear or deeply within the ear canal, these options fit discreetly and allow for confidence in diverse listening situations.

Now is the Time to Try!

At Advanced Hearing Care, we are very excited about some of the latest technology options available to treat hearing loss.  Some of these truly innovative developments have already made measurable impacts in the quality of some of our patients’ lives.  And we’re inviting anyone who wants to experience these truly extraordinary developments to call us for an opportunity to hear what they’ve been missing.

Save the Date:
August 20-24 and August 21-31, 2012

For two weeks, we are highlighting some of these developments in new technology.  We are reserving our available appointments for anyone who is interested in experiencing the difference that better hearing can make in his or her lifestyle.  For those who would like to take advantage of this opportunity, we will conduct a full Four-Step Process consultation appointment as well as an in-office demonstration of an appropriate hearing device system.

What’s New In Hearing Technology

There are a few trends that are currently developing in the hearing technology industry.  One trend is to expand on available wireless accessories and technology, using small wireless antennae to transmit ear-to-ear binaural sound processing signals and enable media streaming capabilities.  Another is to make the hearing aids as small and discreet as possible, whether they are fit behind the ear or deep within the ear canal.  And, of course, hearing aid manufacturers are always trying to improve how well technology performs in very diverse listening environments by refining how the hearing aids reduce background noise and manipulate various features of the technology to improve listening and understanding.

Don’t Miss This Opportunity!

If you are struggling with hearing loss, or if you’ve just started to notice that you aren’t hearing like you should, don’t miss this opportunity to educate yourself about your hearing.  As hearing health care providers, our professionals specialize in keeping you informed about how your hearing works and what can be done to help you compensate for any hearing loss you may have.  Call us for your comprehensive hearing evaluation today and let us reintroduce you to a world of sound!

Men, take charge of your hearing health!

Originally posted at the Hearing Care Blog:

By: Dr. Kevin M. Liebe, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA
Doctor of Audiology
Columbia Basin Hearing & Balance Center

Dr. Kevin M. Liebe, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA

This Father’s Day, and throughout the week leading up to it—National Men’s Health Week— men are encouraged to be proactive with their health, including their hearing health.

When left untreated, hearing loss can disrupt family life, strain relationships and increase the likelihood of depression and other psychological problems. Yet, millions of men with hearing loss have never even had a hearing test, either due to denial or lack of awareness that the symptoms they are experiencing are the result of hearing impairment. It’s no wonder that a hearing examination was recently labeled as the “most neglected health test for men” by MSN Health.

Sixty percent of the 36 million people with hearing loss in the United States are male, with a majority not seeking treatment for their hearing problems.

Despite the strong associations with many chronic conditions and diseases, most primary care doctors (over 75% in surveys) do not typically ask their patients if they have hearing problems and often do not include a hearing exam as part of a routine physical.

Conditions that afflict millions of American men, such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, are all associated with increased risk of hearing loss. Research also ties hearing loss to a three-fold risk of falling among working-aged people (40 to 69), depression/anxiety, cognitive decline, and reduced earnings.

In a 2010 study, researchers at the Better Hearing Institute found that people with untreated hearing loss may lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. The use of hearing aids, however, was shown to dramatically reduce the risk of unemployment and income loss.

Prevention is key.

Because men are more likely to have noisy jobs and hobbies, preserving hearing is critical to preventing problems in the future. Consistent use of hearing protection when in the presence of loud noise is an important part of maintaining a health auditory system.

Despite reluctance to do so, it’s important that men pay attention to their health. Diagnosis and treatment of a hearing loss may not only result in better hearing, but has the potential to significantly improve the overall quality of a person’s life.

The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist.

Have more questions about hearing loss? Check our Hearing FAQ page.

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Eye-Opening Facts about Hearing Loss

  • Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States
  • Approximately one in 10 Americans, or 36 million people have some degree of hearing loss.
  • More than half of the people with hearing loss are younger than age 65. Many of these people are still in the workforce
  • Fewer than 15 percent of physicians today ask patients if they have any hearing problems.
  • People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and less likely to participate in organized activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
  • The vast majority of people who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids report significant improvements in their quality of life at home, work and in social settings.
National Men's Health Week is June 11-17.

Facts on Men’s Health:

  • A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage compared to women.
  • Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests.
  • Men make 1/2 as many physician visits for preventative care, compared to women.
  • Men are 28 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure.
  • Men are 24 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for pneumonia that could have been prevented by getting an immunization.
  • Men are 32 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for long-term complications of diabetes and are more than twice as likely than women to have a leg or foot amputated due to complications related to diabetes.

Source: Department of Health & Human Services; Men’s Health Network

About National Men’s Health Week
National Men’s Health Week is celebrated each year the week leading up to and including Father’s Day, which is June 11-17 in 2012. During this week, individuals, families, communities, and others work to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.