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.

When is it Time to See Your Audiologist?

Audiologists are health care professionals that evaluate hearing and how the ear functions. Most audiologists have trained for 8 years and achieved a Doctorate degree making them specialists in evaluating hearing disorders. When is the right time to see an audiologist?

Hearing is a vital sense that connects us to our outside world. We use our ears and hearing for communication with each other, for safety in locating sounds around us, and the balance portion helps us orient ourselves in space. Recent research studies have found that the brain actually changes and ages faster when we are not hearing as well due to a lack of consistent stimulation to the brain. Since hearing is such an important part of our lives and well-being, it is important to seek medical advice if there are any changes to our hearing and balance systems.

Hearing Issues to See Your Audiologist About

Some clues that your hearing might not be as acute as it used to be:

  • – You find yourself asking “what” or “huh” more often
  • – Your ears are ringing or buzzing
  • – Background noise has become increasingly difficult, and you may even start avoiding them
  • – You feel as though you can still hear people’s voices, but just not understand the words they are saying as well
  • – Your ears have a sensation of fullness, or you feel as though you have pressure in your ears
  • – You have drainage coming from your ears
  • – You are more sensitive to loud sounds than you were before

Balance Issues to See Your Audiologist About

The ear is also responsible for helping us keep our balance and if this part of the ear experiences any disturbances, it can cause dizziness or balance related issues.

Some clues that your balance system might not be as acute as it used to be:

  • – You experience vertigo, or dizziness
  • – You feel as though you drift to one side when walking
  • – Dizziness occurs with positional changes like turning your head or looking up to the sky or rolling over in bed
  • – You experience a drunk-like feeling when not drunk

These are just a limited group of symptoms that can be related to changes in your ears, hearing, and balance system. Symptoms are even more alarming if they are isolated to one ear or one side. The above list would not be considered emergent items. If you experience a sudden change in hearing, you should seek medical help immediately as there is a critical window of 48 hours to seek treatment in these cases.

If you are experiencing any of the hearing or balance issues above, an audiologist is a great place to start to get more information. Audiologists are trained to make appropriate referrals if warranted. Most audiological testing is fast, covered by insurance, and easy to perform in a routine clinical environment. Call 651-888-7888 to arrange evaluation with one of our Doctors of Audiology today!

Photo by Dawid Sobolewski on Unsplash

Why Hearing is Important

Your hearing is important because it is what connects you with the world around you. It is one of our five precious senses. It is not something that is typically asked about by your family practice doctors but it is the sense that stimulates the brain the most. How important is hearing, really?

Birth-to-school age

We begin hearing in the womb and can recognize our mother’s voice before we are even born! Early on in life, our hearing allows us to start learning language. Unless sign language is used, our hearing is an integral part in language development. Babies and toddlers will imitate the sounds of the world around them before they develop language. Strong language development lays the groundwork for our educational years.

School-age

While in our school-aged years, our hearing becomes important for both social and educational reasons. People who are unable to hear their teachers may start to fall behind their peers. This may also impact and shape social connections. Our life experiences build through our educational years. Hearing loss can be isolating and have an impact on how social connections are built.

Adult

Once people are entering the workforce, hearing can have a major impact on employment opportunities and earning potential. A study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology (2012) found that people with hearing loss are more likely to be either unemployed, or earn significantly lower incomes than their normal hearing peers.

Retirement

The more common impacts of hearing loss tend to show in our elderly and aging population. Hearing loss becomes increasingly common as age increases. Our bodies wear out with age, and hearing is no different. Keeping the brain stimulated and active is a key activity to prevent this wear and tear from impacting our brains. If hearing loss prevents people from engaging in their social lives, the brain can start to shrink from lack of use. This can also lead to isolation, depression, and overall lower quality-of-life. If hearing loss goes untreated long enough, it can even cause neurological changes.

Hearing is important at every stage of life. We can take steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss by wearing hearing protection in hazardous levels of noise. Some hearing loss in unpreventable. This is why it is important to get routine hearing evaluations so that you can catch changes before they may problematic and bothersome. Call our office today at (651) 888-7888 to schedule your hearing evaluation!