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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.

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.

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!

Exciting New Technology Options Available!

Hearing technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. At Advanced Hearing Care, we are excited to share with our readers and patients some of the newest breakthroughs in the industry. Today, we’re showcasing just a few of these updates, with more to come!

What’s New in the mini-RIC/RITE Category

From left to right: AGXsx mini RIC, AGXOd Series, and AGXsx RIC13 are the latest developments in the mini RIC/RITE style of hearing device.

Miniaturized Receiver-in-the-Canal/Ear (RIC/RITE) hearing aids have taken the hearing industry by storm over the last several years. And they keep getting smaller and better as time goes on. Some of the most exciting changes have been made in this particular category of hearing technology.

  • AGXOd Series – Subtle cosmetics and fully-automated sound processing make AGXOd Series virtually invisible for the user and everyone else. It hides behind the ear and the almost invisible receiver wire and ergonomically shaped speaker ensure fitting comfort throughout the day. The instrument’s surface is smooth and unbroken with no push buttons to attract attention. Designed with first-time users in mind, AGXOd Series makes the transition to wearing amplification easy by delivering immediate benefit. Fully-featured digital hearing technology, the AGXOd Series is also wireless and Bluetooth compatible with the use of a streamer.
  • AGXsx mini RIC – This is one mighty mini-RIC. Not only is it nearly invisible when worn by the patient, it fits nearly all hearing losses. The AGXsx mini RIC is the only RIC using a size 10 battery with a configurable volume control and integrated telecoil. This technology is fully-featured and includes some of the best performance features available on the market.
  • AGXsx RIC 13 – Even though the battery is larger than its counterparts, the AGXsx RIC 13 hearing aid is anything but big and bulky. It’s significantly smaller than the standard RIC with a 312 battery, but takes full advantage of the size 13 battery. Technical data show that this hearing aid can go up to 18 days on the same battery. This is fully-featured digital hearing technology and can fit nearly all types of hearing loss.

To “test-drive” any of these new and exciting hearing treatment solutions, call us today for a hearing evaluation. At Advanced Hearing Care, our experienced professionals will take the time to get to know you and give expert advice to tailor a solution to your individual hearing needs using today’s most extraordinary technology with excellent service at an exceptional value. With new miniaturized technology, hearing treatment doesn’t have to look like your grandfather’s ear plug hearing aid. Don’t wait until old age to hear what you’ve been missing!

The Importance of Lifestyle

When it comes to treating hearing loss, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.  What’s best for one person may not be what’s best for another person.  A person’s lifestyle plays a very important role in determining which particular features are necessary to treat his or her hearing loss.

Top Three Situations

Where is your hearing loss impacting your life?

Anytime we see a new patient here at Advanced Hearing Care, we ask them to tell us what are their three most important listening environments. These environments are ones that are either their three most important activities in their work day or the three things that they have stopped doing because they can’t hear well. Examples of top environments include watching television, talking on the telephone, eating out at noisy restaurants, or hearing conversation in small group or party situations, just to name a few.

When we know how a hearing loss is impacting a patient’s lifestyle, we are better able to program a hearing solution to address that patient’s needs in those situations. These environments are the true test of whether or not we’re providing a benefit to a patient’s life. If a patient doesn’t notice improvement in hearing where they need it the most, then they’re more likely to reject the solution entirely.

What’s Your Lifestyle?

It’s also important for us to know how often a patient engages in his or her top three situations. If Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones both identify their top three situations as watching television, going to church and talking on the telephone, we know that they will need specific settings to handle those three environments, but we don’t necessarily know yet the level of sophistication they will need in their hearing aids. On the surface, Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones look pretty similar. But when we discover that Mrs. Jones is a Sunday School Teacher, an avid bridge player, and on several community boards and committees, we know that she has a very active and vibrant lifestyle and her hearing solution will have to keep up with her. Mr. Smith lives a quieter lifestyle, going to church services once a week and keeping up with his family out of state over the telephone, so his hearing solution doesn’t need the bells and whistles that are necessary for more active people.

At Advanced Hearing Care, we break up our technology solutions into lifestyle tiers. The AGX Technology Product Lines match technology with common lifestyle demands. The higher the tier, the more advanced the technology, the better that technology will perform in demanding listening situations.

What's Your Lifestyle?

AGX9: For the Active Lifestyle — The AGX9 product line was designed for individuals who lead active lifestyles and whose listening environments include frequent background noise. Active lifestyles often feature a variety of video and audio entertainment, diverse restaurant dining, sporting events, outdoor activities, demanding careers, group participation, family gatherings, movies, driving, mall shopping, and church activities.

AGX7: For the Casual Lifestyle — AGX7 technology offers premium features in an advanced hearing system. This line of technology was designed for individuals who lead casual lifestyles and whose listening environments include occasional background noise. Casual lifestyles typically include activities such as regular conversation, frequent television, quiet restaurant dining, small meetings, family gatherings, driving, shopping trips, movies, and weekly church services.

AGX5: For the Quiet Lifestyle — AGX5 technology offers excellent features at a mid-level price point. This hearing aid technology was designed for individuals who lead quiet lifestyles and whose listening environments include limited background noise. Quiet lifestyles often feature activities including one-on-one conversations, some television and radio, quiet shopping trips, and weekly church services.

AGX3: For the Very Quiet Lifestyle — AGX3 technology offers high-quality features at an entry-level price and are the responsible choice for those who want an economical solution to their hearing needs. AGX3 hearing aid technology is designed for individuals who lead very quiet lifestyles and whose listening environments rarely include background noise. Very quiet lifestyles most often feature activities in and around the home, such as limited television, radio or recorded books, and small church services.

Putting It All Together

When it comes to hearing health care, one size does not fit all. By identifying both your top three listening situations and your level of lifestyle activity, we can offer a truly customized and tailored solution to your personal hearing loss in the situations where you perceive that you need it the most. Don’t let anything keep you from living the life that you want to live. Call today and reintroduce yourself to a world of sound!

Hearing Loss Myths: Treatment Solutions and Hearing Technology

Some of the strongest misconceptions about hearing health care involve the treatment of hearing loss. For many years, limits of technology and sound mechanics restricted the ability to successfully treat hearing loss. Because of these limitations, hearing technology was often ugly and bulky with very poor sound quality. Despite recent developments that have reduced the size, improved the sound quality and increased the aesthetic appeal of hearing technology, many people shy away from hearing treatments because they still believe that they either can’t be helped or that the recommended hearing aids will make them look old. Today, we’ll take a look at a few of the most common objections people bring to us regarding hearing treatment and technology.

RIC aids are tiny and treat mild and high frequency losses.

Myth: My hearing loss cannot be helped.
Fact:
In the past, that may have been true. Until relatively recent breakthroughs in hearing technology, there were certain types of hearing loss that could not be treated successfully. These included high frequency losses, mild losses, sensorineural loss with decreased speech discrimination, or monaural deafness. The limits in hearing technology in the past made it difficult, if not impossible, to help people with these conditions. However, most of those limits no longer exist. Open-fit and receiver-in-the-canal solutions were a major breakthrough that allowed for easy treatment of high frequency and mild losses. The most recent speech enhancement features available in most hearing technology greatly help those patients who have difficulty with understanding speech sounds. Wireless CROS and Bi-CROS hearing aids are now available for people who only have one functioning ear. The truth is that the hearing industry is tackling some of the toughest hearing losses and producing solutions that can help many people who were previously told, often by their doctors, that they could not be helped.

Myth: Hearing loss and hearing instruments are a sign of old age.
Fact:
Not anymore. Today’s most extraordinary hearing technology is smaller and more discreet than ever before. Many of them are either invisible or nearly invisible when worn. They simply do not look like the hearing aids our parents and grandparents had to wear. Also, the occurrence of hearing loss is more prevalent in the Baby Boomer population than it is in those over the age of 65, which means that people with hearing loss are younger than has been typical in the past. These people are finding it more and more difficult to function in the workplace with hearing impairments. They are treating their hearing loss with amazing technology that gives them confidence to move through their day without calling attention to their condition.

Myth: Really good hearing instruments are prohibitively expensive.
Fact:
While it is true that premium instruments require premium investment, that premium instrument is usually too much hearing aid for most lifestyles. Most manufacturers produce different levels of their technology at different levels of investment. These levels of investment and technology tend to correlate with and be built around different levels of lifestyle activity. The question to ask yourself is how highly you value your quality of life and how much impact your potential hearing loss has on that quality.

The brain relies on both ears to hear the world of sound.

Myth: Wearing two hearing aids is not necessary.
Fact:
One hearing aid can certainly get you by. You will notice some benefit, but it won’t be nearly the benefit that you will experience by treating both ears. The first reason is that binaural, or two-eared, hearing helps us localize sounds, helps us understand speech in noisy situations, and helps our brains process everything that’s going on around us in the world of sound. As I sit and type this, my right ear is sending different sounds to my brain than my left ear is sending. My brain relies on the different signals it receives from each side of my head in order to fully process my environment. Without one of my ears, all sounds would appear to be coming from the side of my head that does hear and I would be missing a lot of sounds that are necessary for understanding speech. Another argument for treating binaural loss with binaural amplification is that anytime there is a binaural hearing loss that is only treated with one hearing aid, the brain tends to start ignoring the ear that doesn’t hear as well. In this case, it is very likely that the patient will develop more problems at a faster rate in the untreated ear. Additionally, when there are two ears working at the same level, sounds seem louder than if one ear doesn’t hear. We call this an additive therapeutic effect where 1+1=3 or more, due to the exponential power of the brain in processing auditory signals. If a person wears two hearing aids, those aids do not have to be made as loud as if the person were only wearing one hearing aid, allowing for more severe losses to be treated more successfully.

Myth: I can just have surgery like my friend did and that will fix my hearing.
Fact:
There are several different surgical procedures available for hearing loss and all of them address a different problem. Of all the hearing loss cases, only a very small percentage are candidates for corrective surgery. Usually these surgeries involve taking some action to prevent hearing from getting worse rather than making it better, as is the case in a stapedectomy or mastoidectomy, and only if the patient is experiencing chronic infections or complications from other medical issues. Other surgical procedures involve the removal of abnormal growths, cholesteatomas, or acoustic neuromas. Some improvement may be seen after these kinds of procedures, but it is unusual for there to be a complete recovery of normal hearing. The procedures designed to improve poor hearing are implant procedures, either cochlear implants or small mechanical implants behind the ear. Cochlear implantation candidates have very profound losses and do poorly with hearing aid amplification. Mechanical implants may benefit a broader range of cases than cochlear implants, yet the surgery tends to be invasive and often involves breaking healthy ossicular bones in the middle ear. Often, healing times after these procedures can be quite long and the implant can generally not be used until the healing process is complete. The treatment process and recovery times for these procedures is longer and more arduous than the process of selecting and fitting hearing aids, which provide immediate benefit without involving any surgical procedures.

The only way to truly know whether or not there are options for treating your hearing loss is to discuss those options with a trained and experienced hearing professional. Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists can test your hearing and make recommendations for successful treatment of most types of hearing loss. These professionals have a focused commitment to stay up to date on all of the new developments in hearing health care and technology. Don’t let the limitations of the past keep you from living your life today and in the future. Call us today and reintroduce yourself to a world of sound!

AMP: The Hearing Aid for People Who Aren’t Ready for a Hearing Aid

AMP - Invisibly affordable
Invisible. Affordable. AMP.

Advanced Hearing Care is excited to introduce the newest breakthrough in instant-fit hearing technology: AMP.

You may be having trouble hearing what people are saying – or are starting to miss out on sounds you once heard – but you’re not sure you’re ready to wear a hearing aid yet, especially one that people can see. That’s what makes you ready to AMP.

AMP fits snugly in your ear canal, so no one but you will know it’s there. It’s comfortable, removable, and ready to wear in a single visit. Better yet, AMP’s small size and ear canal placement take advantage of your ear’s natural acoustics for a sound quality you need to hear to believe.

Why invisible?  Studies have shown that invisible technology encourages daily use of hearing technology and early intervention in the treatment of hearing loss.  Because AMP is discreet, wearers have higher confidence in their hearing.

And the best thing about AMP is its affordability. At just $1500 per pair, AMP gives you control over your hearing and your budget. AMP is the invisible hearing aid with the biggest bang for the buck, making it the perfect solution for those who can’t afford not to hear.

Call Advanced Hearing Care today for a demonstration of this amazing technology.  Don’t wait to hear what you’ve been missing!

Treating Sound Voids™ – Speech Enhancement Technology

Hearing only half of what people say?
Huh? What'd you say?

Are you hearing only half of what people say?  Does it sound like other people mumble or talk with marbles in their mouths all the time?  Does “take” sound like “cake,” “road” sound like “rose”, or “puff” sound like “tough?”  Do these difficulties make certain activities impossible for you to enjoy your lifestyle?

One of the most common and difficult hearing issues to treat involves the inability to properly process and understand speech sounds.  We refer to this phenomenon as a Sound Void™.  Sound Voids™ can be caused by any number of circumstances, but usually are due to sensorineural hearing loss and normal aging of the auditory system.

Sound Voids™ can be treated with a variety of Speech Enhancement features found in the extraordinary hearing technology available at Advanced Hearing Care.  These features search for speech patterns outside the normal speech range, filter out background noise that may interfere with speech recognition, protect against sudden loud noises that may block out speech sounds, and perform multiple automatic adjustments every second to ensure that the sounds you want to hear can be heard.  With the broad range of Speech Enhancement Technologies available, there is no reason for Sound Voids™ to continue to interfere with your lifestyle.

The only way to know whether or not your Sound Voids™ can be treated with Speech Enhancement Technology is to experience the difference hearing technology can make!  We invite you to schedule a comprehensive audiological evaluation and hearing treatment consultation.  We can let you listen to the difference these amazing features can make.  Call today and reintroduce yourself to a world of sound!