Hearing Aids and Batteries: Part 1, Disposable

Hello everyone!

With the relatively recent advent of rechargeable batteries for hearing aids, we have received a lot of questions about hearing aid batteries, and how all the different options work. The information available can be a little confusing, so we thought we would break it down for you here!

Generally, there are two different types of batteries: disposable and rechargeable.

This week, we will discuss the ins and outs of disposable batteries.



Disposable

Disposable batteries were the only battery option available for hearing aids for a long time. The “official” name is zinc-air, because the batteries are air-activated. Each individual battery comes with a sticker attached, and you peel off the sticker when you are ready to use the battery.

Disposable batteries come in four different sizes denoted by different colored stickers. From smallest to largest they are: 10 (yellow), 312 (brown), 13 (orange), and 675 (blue). The size of the battery generally correlates with the size or the power of the hearing aid. The size of the battery also typically correlates with the length of battery life (the smaller the battery, the more often you will have to change it). The average battery life is about 5-7 days, however, other factors (such as stream time and wear time) can affect that number.

An advantage to using disposable batteries is general reliability; you will not need to worry about charging a device, and if the batteries do lose power unexpectedly, you can almost always find them at a local pharmacy or grocery store.

A disadvantage to using disposable batteries is the maintenance; disposable batteries require replacement about once per week, which does involve some fine motor skills and replenishing a stock as needed.



Tips: For those of you with hearing aids that require disposable batteries, below are a few tips and tricks that can help ease replacement/lengthen the life of them:

  • Try and wait at least a minute between the time you peel the sticker off the battery and when you place it in your hearing aid.

  • If a battery is intermittent/does not seem to work well upon placing it in your hearing aid, make sure any sticker residue is completely off the battery. You can also check the expiration date on the card or carton of hearing aid batteries – sometimes batteries can become intermittent even within a year of the expiration date listed.

  • Always make sure the “plus sign” or the flat side of the battery is facing up in your hearing aid (you should be able to see the “+” when the battery is inserted in your hearing aid/there should not be any part of the hearing aid touching the top/flat side of the battery). You should not have to force the battery into its compartment, so if you are getting a lot of resistance, check and make sure it is facing the correct way. Remember – if all else fails, contact your audiologist!



Hopefully that clears up any confusion/curiosities regarding disposable batteries and hearing aids. Remember to come back and visit this space next month, where we will talk about rechargeable hearing aids!



Have a “powerfully” awesome rest of July, friends!

Andros Audiology Summer Update!

Hello again, friends!

With this time of year comes many opportunities to get out of the house and into the community to mingle – block parties, barbeques, and of course, city days! Here at Andros ENT, we’re heading out to see old friends and make some new ones.

We’ll be at Mendota Day on Saturday, July 13! (http://www.cityofmendota.org/MENDOTA-DAY-2014.html ; https://www.facebook.com/MendotaDay/ ) where there will be complimentary items, educational materials, and the chance to win a free hearing screening!

Since a hearing screening is part of what we’re giving away, we thought we would use today’s conversation to give all of you more detail about a hearing screening actually ENTAILS.

At a very basic level, a hearing screening is an abbreviated hearing test, where the only pitches tested are the ones considered most important for speech. A full diagnostic evaluation would test at different levels (starting louder and moving to the softest sounds that you are able to hear), a hearing screening only tests at one specific level, at what we consider “the borderline of normal.” The idea behind this, is to confirm that at the very least, you can hear the most important speech information at a normal level
for both ears. If at any of these pitches, you are unable to hear the “borderline normal” level that we initially present at, we’ll then go looking for your hearing threshold (or the softest sound that you can hear). So, that we can tell you exactly what level of hearing loss is present (if any). A hearing screening is short and sweet, and typically comes with the possibility of a few recommendations.

The outcomes typically involve the following:

– You passed! Hooray! This means you heard every sound we presented at the “borderline of normal”; for the different speech tones, and you can go about your merry business with little to no interference from us! We recommend getting your hearing tested every 1-2 years as preventive care, even if you pass your screening with flying colors, but you should always feel free to come in sooner if any new concerns come up.

– At one or more pitches we tested, we found some hearing loss – what now? The next step will typically be a diagnostic evaluation – the concept is similar to a screening, except in far more detail – more information is better!

– This diagnostic evaluation may be scheduled only with the audiologist, or it may involve “tandem”; (or associated) appointment with an ENT physician. Typically, you only have to see the physician if there are any FDA referral symptoms, or if you have concerns, you’d like addressed from a medical standpoint.

– FDA Referral Symptoms – quickly: ringing/buzzing, especially if it’s only in one ear; pain; sudden hearing loss; a large difference in hearing ability between your ears; fullness in either ear; active drainage from either ear; dizziness; earwax; or any trauma to your ears

– At some point during your diagnostic evaluation, your friendly neighborhood audiologist may mention that you are what we consider a hearing aid candidate – don’t panic! This is the beginning of a conversation that you are an active participant in – your opinions matter, and this is the time to get any questions you may have addressed. We’re here to educate, offer you opinions with the knowledge that we have, and most importantly, LISTEN to YOU. You drive the next step in the process.

So, there it is: your 60-second snapshot into a hearing screening, and some of the potential outcomes. Come see our faces at Mendota Day on Saturday, July 13, and we’ll be happy to answer even MORE questions (we might even reward you with candy)!

Happy summer-ing, all!

Summertime Tips

Welcome to summertime, Minnesotans! It’s that wonderful time of year when we all remember outside
exists and is GLORIOUS! But with the glory also comes questions about how best to keep hearing aids in
tip-top shape as the heat rises.
With that being said, we are here to help! We address five common situations you may need to combat
during summer with some helpful suggestions to keep your hearing aids in the best condition.

Situation 1 – Moisture:
a. It’s in the air, it’s behind your ears – moisture is EVERYWHERE, and as we all know, moisture can
be considered the villain to a hearing aid’s hero status.
b. What can you do to combat moisture?
i. When they’re not in your ears, keep the hearing instruments in a cool, dry place –
potentially even a dehumidifier or in a container with a desiccant pack (which can be
purchased through your audiologist!)
ii. If you’re going to be doing something where you’re highly active (working out, working in
the yard, swimming [ESPECIALLY swimming]) – take the hearing aids out, and leave them in
the aforementioned cool, dry, place
iii. When taking the hearing aids out of your ear’s wipe them down with a dry cloth – if you see
any moisture or debris present near the microphones, try your best to brush the moisture
away from there
iv. Finally – if you’re noticing issues with your hearing aid that you feel may be related to
moisture – come in and see your audiologist!

Situation 2 – Heat:
a. Just like any other piece of electronics, hearing aids are susceptible to extreme temperatures –
that includes the internal electronics, as well as the zinc air, Z-power, or lithium-ion rechargeable
batteries that are available in hearing aids.
b. When they’re having to combat truly terrible temperatures, hearing aids may not function at their
peak performance level. Particularly if you’re going to be taking them out – be sure to put them
either in a travel case, or inside, in a cool, dry location.
c. Do NOT leave them sitting in direct sunlight for long stretches of time – if your cell phone doesn’t
like to overheat, neither do your hearing aids!
 

Situation 3 – Yardwork:
a. Common question during the summer months: Can I wear my hearing aids while mowing the
lawn/gardening?
i. See above – if you’re going to be active in the garden, it may be best to leave the hearing
aids inside where they are cool and safe – both from a moisture and heat standpoint.
b. Another consideration for the garden – if you’re going to be using any type of power tool (lawn
mower, weed whipper, etc.), you should really trade in those hearing aids for hearing protection,
and keep your remaining hearing safe!
 

Situation 4 – Accidentals:
a. So, your family or friends thought it would be hilarious to take you for a dip in the lake, but forgot
you had your hearing aids in – what do you do now?
i. First things first: remain calm!

  1. Once you get back on dry land, get those hearing aids out of your ears.
  2. If you have battery doors that open, now is the time to open battery doors, and take
    the battery out. Let the hearing aids lie flat with the battery doors open to dry out!
    a. If you have rechargeable hearing aids, and don’t have battery doors that open,
    DON’T try to open them. Just lay them flat and let them dry.
  3. If you have a dehumidifier or a container with a desiccant in it, go ahead and get the
    hearing aids in there and let them stay there for a few hours.
  4. Do NOT panic and try to dry the hearing aids with a hair dryer, or any other kind of
    tool that dries things other than hearing aids – that is how you end up with wet AND
    melted plastic that used to be a hearing aid
    ii. And finally – call your audiologist and schedule a hearing aid check, to make sure everything
    is as it should be

 
Situation 5 – Vacation
a. Before you leave on the fabulous vacation you have planned, whether it be overseas or up north,
there are a few things you should double-check that are in your suitcase:
i. Batteries

  1. If you have the kind of hearing aids that use batteries, you should make sure to bring
    an extra pack when you go on vacation – it’s like an extra set of contacts, or a backup
    pair of glasses – better safe than sorry!
  2. If you have the kind of hearing aids that use a charger – make sure you have the right
    cords!
    ii. A travel case
  3. Here is a rule of thumb that is accurate ALL the time, but is especially important when
    traveling: if the hearing aids are not in your ears, they should be in your case.
  4. Let me say it again for those in the back: IF THE HEARING AIDS ARE NOT IN YOUR
    EARS, THEY SHOULD BE IN A CASE
    ii. What to do if you have a hearing aid issue out of town
  5. First things first again – we are still remaining calm!
  6. If it’s within normal business hours, call your audiologist. They may be able to walk
    you through troubleshooting the problem over the phone, or find an appropriate
    referral for you wherever you are.
  7. In the worst case scenario, if you’re unable to find an appropriate referral or resolve
    the issue over the phone, you may have to put your hearing aids in a safe place (like
    their case), and keep them there until you can get home and get to your audiologist

 
Here’s your bottom line for summer: go have fun! If things go wrong and you need some help, stop in
and see us at Andros Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, or give us a call at 651-888-7800.
Happy summer, everyone!

The Future of Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are sophisticated computer technology. Like all computers, this technology is under constant development for improvement. One focus of hearing aid manufacturers is to improve speech understanding in noise. Companies have also worked to improve product durability from moisture and wear. Now, companies are starting to introduce sensors that can track more than just how many hours it is used. What does this mean for the future and hearing aid users?

People who would benefit from hearing aids are not getting the help they need. Thus, hearing aid manufacturers are striving to make technology that people will want to wear and use. Imagine if you could wear a small device on your ear that not only helped you hear better, but also tracked fitness, blood sugar levels, and could even translate languages real-time. These features may be coming down the technology pipeline for hearing aids.

Smart Technology of the Future

Hearing aid companies have already introduced smart sensors that learn about incoming sounds and environments. This makes the computer better able to identify this sound or environment in its next encounter. It “learns” similar to how our email “learns” what is junk, and what is important to us. When the computer can learn more about how to distinguish speech versus background noise, the user will benefit.

The future of hearing aids will also include more connectivity to the other “smart” devices we use on a daily basis. For someone who relies on hearing aids, the doorbell’s ability to communicate with hearing aids, and ring a tone in the user’s ear if there is somebody at the door, may be a really big deal. Televisions will also be able to seamlessly stream the sound into the custom fit hearing devices, therefore improving listening experiences. Believe it or not, hearing aid technology is already able to provide most of these features!

Bottom Line

Smart hearing aid features are already here and technology is only going to get better. As time goes on, more and more technology will reach the hands of consumers to help people improve their hearing on a daily basis.  Andros Audiology can help you find your perfect technology. Call (651) 888-7888 to schedule an evaluation with our Doctors of Audiology today!

What is bundled hearing aid service?

When purchasing a hearing aid, it is common to find bundled services. What does bundling mean?

Equipment costs

Bundling means combining equipment and service costs for hearing aids. One part of the price for hearing aids is the cost of the equipment. Hearing aids are sophisticated computers. Another part of the hearing aid price is the cost for the professional that works with your devices. Hearing aids require a licensed profession to program, fit and maintain their function. Therefore, bundling entails combining these services into one cost.

To help explain the cost of the equipment, the small sophisticated computer in your hearing aid is like the small powerful computer in your last smart phone. We invest millions of dollars each year to make these devices smarter, faster, smaller, and stronger. Each ear needs its own computer. This will double the equipment cost.

Professional Care

Your hearing aid professional will spend time on an initial visit to ensure the devices are custom fit to your ears. You will then likely need 2-4 follow-up visits to fine tune the fit after your first fit. Next, after the initial fitting and trial period, hearing aids will need routine maintenance. Earwax, moisture, and debris can clog up a hearing aid thus affecting its function. It is important that you have easy access to hearing care to maintain the devices. Thus, hearing care professionals want patients to feel comfortable coming in as many times as needed to maintain their devices. Paying for each visit separately might stop from people from routine care. Bundling prices prevents this.

Bottom Line

If you ever feel like the cost for your devices is not within the typical range, feel free to ask your provider to break down the costs, or, in addition, shop around. Check out our blog post about hearing aid cost for more information here. And always, for services in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, call (651) 888-7888.

Do Hearing Aids Come with a Guarantee?

Do hearing aids come with any sort of guarantee? There is often a significant financial decision to make when pursuing better hearing. There are also many brands, styles, clinicians, and stores to purchase them from.  With so many options, it can be hard to know if you have chosen the right option for you.

According to www.dictionary.com, a guarantee is a promise or assurance, especially one in writing, that something is of specified quality, content, benefit, etc., or that it will perform satisfactorily for a given length of time. In the better hearing industry, you will often hear the terms “trial period” and “warranty.” Both of these things mean a guarantee.

As an audiologist, I can not guarantee that your hearing aids will meet all of your expectations. Some people expect hearing aids to restore their hearing back to “normal” and this is simply not possible. However, I can guarantee that we will do everything possible to ensure they are working at an optimal level for each individual.

Trial Period

Every ear and person is unique. What works for one person may not meet the needs of another. Simply put, somebody may need to try multiple options before they find their perfect fit. This makes the trial period important. During your trial period, it is important to work with your provider to ensure your new devices are meeting your needs. If not, you can always return the devices for a refund. Trial period length will vary by state but Minnesota requires a 45-day window.

Warranties

Manufacturing companies provide a warranty as a way to guarantee your devices stay in top working order. Warranty periods are often one to three years.

There are many safe guards in place to ensure you will achieve improved hearing, and maintain improved hearing with your new devices. If you question your progress, you should reach out to your hearing professional. Our Doctors of Audiology can be reached at (651) 888-7800.

 

“Guarantee.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/guarantee?s=t.

Hearing Aids in Summertime

Hooray! It’s finally warm and green outside but with that comes some other unpleasant things like humidity (especially up here in Minnesota)! If you wear hearing aids, you might want to take a minute and review your maintenance routine to make sure you’re protecting your valuable devices that connect you with all of the wonderful sounds of summer.

Moisture

Summertime brings an uptick in moisture.This can affect how hearing aids function, particularly behind-the-ear styles. Humidity, rain and perspiration can all affect hearing aids, especially the precious microphone which is generally the most exposed part of the aid. You also want to make sure you don’t jump into the pool or lake with your devices either. Most hearing aid companies have now found ways to coat new technology with moisture-proof coating but this will not prevent moisture from filling the space in the microphones, and in turn, blocking the channel for sound to get into the device.

How do you protect your hearing aids from moisture then? You will need to remove your hearing aids at times. Hearing aids are unfortunately not ready to go swimming or water-skiing with you. For the times where you’ll be exposed to humidity and perspiration, but still need your hearing aids for communication (like on the golf course), a few extra maintenance steps can really help.

Maintenance

Pay attention to the area where your microphones are. Run your cleaning brush across them at the end of the day to brush away any debris or moisture that might have settled there throughout the day. You can also use a dri-aid kit at night.  A dri-aid kit is a container that will absorb moisture from the devices. Ask your audiologist about both of these things if you haven’t been shown this already.

Otherwise, go out and enjoy your summer! A few mindful moments of maintenance can make a big difference in long-term device performance. A last parting consideration involves summertime noise exposure.  When around loud noise, make sure you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, and instead use hearing protection. This goes for when you mow the lawn or shoot off those 4th of July fireworks!

Contact our office at (651) 888-7888 if you have any questions!

Why Are Hearing Aids So Costly?

Hearing aids have a bad reputation for being costly. This can lead to frustration and avoidance from consumers looking to receive help for their hearing. This blog post will not help make hearing aids more affordable, but should help shed some light on these expenses. So why are hearing aids so costly?

Hi-Def Technology

Hearing aids are sophisticated computers. Manufacturers have invested millions into making them smaller and more durable. Consumer demands have also led to the technology working seamlessly with our cell phones and television sets.  Manufacturers pass the cost of research, design, and construction onto consumers. Technology that we will see more of in the future includes rechargeable systems, more Bluetooth and wireless solutions, and even wearable monitors for heart rate and blood sugar levels!

Expert Care

The most challenging aspect of purchasing a hearing aid is the lack of transparency in bundled price packages. Post people assume the price tag for thousands of dollars is just to purchase a small piece of plastic and wires, but this is not the case. These costs are most often bundling the cost of the devices with lifetime care and service. Hearing aids require a professional to custom fit them for each individual ear. Some professionals offer an un-bundled or pay-as-you-go approach. You will need to make sure you know which services are included with your price quote.

What else can we do?

Unfortunately, insurance coverage for hearing aids is largely non-existent. We used to consider hearing a luxury, but we now understand the importance it plays in overall health and well-being. Until our health care establishments recognize this, people in need of hearing help will continue to pay out-of-pocket for it. The government has made recent efforts to bring hearing health care costs down by creating a category of OTC or over-the-counter instruments that do not require any custom fitting. This is one step in providing better access to hearing healthcare but still leaves people with more severe or complicated losses paying significantly more. Audiologists, hearing instrument specialists, and persons with hearing loss will continue to have to advocate for better access to hearing healthcare.

Bottom Line

Don’t let the high perceived cost of hearing aids prevent you from learning more. There is a wide range of cost, style, and services available and consulting with a professional is in your best interest. If you are not happy with the first recommendation, seek another opinion. Our Doctors of Audiology are always on hand and happy to walk you through this big decision.

How Does the Ear Work?

How does the ear work? Hearing is an essential sense that we rely on every day for communication and safety. Most people don’t realize how important this sense really is on our day-to-day life. For information on the importance of hearing, check out our previous blog. So, how do we hear? How does the ear really work?

In a normal auditory system, the ear is comprised of 3 distinct sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. They work together to funnel and capture sound and thus, feed it into our brains. As a result, our brains do all the hard work of understanding.

The Outer Ear

The outer ear is the portion that is visible to us and is typically what people will think of when they think of ears. The portion that captures and therefore funnels sound into the pinna. Sounds are airwaves and these are funneled into the ear canal by the pinna. Once the sound is trapped in the ear canal, everything is directed towards our tympanic membrane, or eardrum. The eardrum is a very thin membrane that vibrates like a drumhead due to sound hitting it.

The Middle Ear

The eardrum marks the start of the middle ear space. This portion of the ear is where we will find the ossicles, or 3 small bones suspended behind the ear drum. Although medical professionals will call these bones the malleus, incus, and stapes, you might know them as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The stapes, or stirrup, is the smallest bone in the body! The 3 bones work together to pass the vibration of sound from the eardrum (outer ear) to the cochlear (inner ear). It is important that the middle ear hold air and not fluid. The Eustachian tube works to keep the air pressure equalized so the eardrum can vibrate freely.

The Inner Ear

The stapes, or stirrup, connects to the final part of our ear, the cochlea. The cochlea is snail shaped and resides in the temporal bone of our skull. The cochlea contains fluid and has 2 parts. The snail shaped half deals with the sound waves and hearing, and the other half contains 3 semi-circular canals which we call the vestibular system. We use the 3 semi-circular canals to maintain our balance and sense of motion in space. If something interrupts the fluid in the semi-circular canals, the person will likely become dizzy.

To hear, we use the coiled portion of the cochlea. Once the sound enters the cochlea, it travels like a wave through the fluid inside the ear. The entire length of the cochlea contains outer and inner hair cells. These hair cells will dance and sway as a result of sound waves passing by. The bundles of hair cells have nerves attached that will therefore fire the signal into the brain.

The Bottom Line

The important thing to remember about our hearing is that we really hear with our brains. Our ears capture the sound wave and therefore converts it to a nerve impulse. Our brains need constant practice and should not go without sound for too long.

An audiologist can evaluate how all 3 sections of your ear are working, along with the brain. To schedule an evaluation, call (651) 888-7888.

Communication Strategies for Family Members

So someone in your family has a hearing loss? Here are some tips to help with the communication breakdowns that are bound to happen.

Last week’s blog post was dedicated to the topic of issues people with hearing loss have in effectively communication. Because communication is a two-way street, it is important for those that are communicating with people with hearing loss know some important strategies to help alleviate those pesky communication breakdowns.

 Here are some helpful tips to help you have better communication with your family member!

  1. Do they already have a hearing aid? IF so…Please don’t shout at them!  Talking much louder will not help them understand you better when they have a hearing aid on. In fact you may sound too loud and distorted, just speak clearly and at a comfortable level.
  2. When talking with your family member, do your best to slow down your rate of speech.
    • – For example: “Doyawannagoouttoeat?” versus “Do you want to go out to eat?”
  3. Remember that they will have an easier time understanding what you say if you look at them and they can clearly see your face.
    • – Face them, make sure the room lighting is good.
  4. Visual speech cues are important for people with hearing loss, so do not block the view of your mouth.
    • – Sometimes resting a hand near your mouth, chewing gum or even facial hair can make speech reading more difficult.
  5. If you are asked to repeat yourself (and you probably will be asked), don’t get frustrated and say it louder—instead try to rephrase or say it differently.
    • – Often rephrasing instead of simply repeated gets the message across
  6. Try to minimize the distance between you and your family member; don’t try to have a conversation from another room or across the room.
  7. Remember that hearing aids should help your family member with their hearing loss, but will NOT restore it back to normal; they may still have some difficulty understanding you
  8. Do your best to minimize distractions when you are trying to have a conversation with your family member
    • – Some examples: turn down the TV, turn off the sink, roll up the windows in the car, sit by a wall or in a booth at a restaurant
  9. Try not to change the topic of conversation suddenly; it will be easier for your family member to follow along if the topic is clear and consistent.
  10. Have patience, it is going to take time for both you and your family member to adjust to hearing loss and/or hearing aids.