Monthly Archives: October 2013

Some challenges of hearing devices – not your average pair of glasses

Audiologist Glen Sutherland’s most recent post on this blog talked about how hearing aids can improve the quality of your life. And they can. But for those of us who wear them, they can also pose many challenges.

For the uninitiated, hearing aids are NOT like glasses. Pretty much the only things that can go wrong with glasses are that you lose them or the frames break when you drop them on the floor. Both have happened to me.

Hearing devices are another story. Here are a few of the challenges I have experienced.

I have a T-coil switch on my hearing aid to help me hear on the phone and it generally works quite well, a great relief to someone like me who would not be able to use the phone without it. Sometimes however, there is electricity in the air and I get loud static noises when I press the T-coil button on my hearing aid. It could be a plane overhead or an electronic gremlin. Whatever the cause, it just adds to the challenge of carrying on a phone conversation.

Glasses sometimes have a tendency to slip down your nose. A quick push and you are set again. Hearing aids have a mold that is fitted to your ear. Molds work pretty well for a while but eventually they shrink. When that happens, an air pocket is created between the ear and the mold. That causes whistling! Sometimes when people hug me they press against my aid and that can cause whistling sounds. And hats! If the brim of a hat is pressing down on the top of the aid, I get whistling again. Even standing too close to the wall can cause this most annoying sound.

F/M systems also create interesting challenges. For those of you not familiar with this term, these wonderful pieces of technology augment the sound we can receive from hearing aids and cochlear implants. (Unfortunately, my F/M is not compatible with my implant, but that is a story for another post).

I have something called direct audio input in my F/M. This feature, combined with Closed Captioning allows me to understand pretty much everything on television. However, if I move my head just slightly or for some odd reason raise my arm in a certain way, the sound from the F/M cuts out and I hear nothing. I have no idea why! It reminds me of those old fashioned rabbit ears we used to have for televisions. Occasionally someone had to stand and hold the rabbit ears in a certain way for the reception to work.

Just this past week my F/M stopped working. I thought the problem might be with my hearing aid as when I pushed the F/M button on the aid I heard a buzzing noise and then the sound just faded away. Apparently the ‘connection’ (a little piece attached to the hearing aid), was loose. Pretty soon this loose connection would affect the T-coil button as well. Luckily it was an easy fix. I didn’t need to send my hearing aid away for repairs and try to cope with my old replacement aid that gives me only about 50% of the sound I can get with the powerful equipment I have now.

When I remember the rudimentary hearing aids I had as a child I am very grateful for the leaps in technology that allow someone with a very profound loss like me to hear. But they are still a lot more complicated than glasses.

Hearing aids can improve the quality of your life

By Glen Sutherland, MCISc

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your summer.

My last post before our summer recess talked about sensori-neural hearing loss. If you have not already done so, you might find it helpful to read my previous posts.

Sensori-neural hearing loss, typically referred to as “nerve deafness”, occurs when damage most often occurs in the “inner” ear but can also occur along the hearing nerve. Approximately 90% of people who have hearing impairment have sensori-neural hearing loss, making it the most common type of hearing impairment. Generally speaking, sensori-neural hearing loss is permanent and irreversible.

Treating any hearing loss depends on prompt diagnosis and treatment. All hearing losses should be evaluated by an audiologist and physician to explore all potential treatment options.

In the vast majority of cases, sensori-neural hearing loss is not medically or surgically treatable. However, most people with sensori-neural loss notice a great deal of benefit from wearing some form of amplification device (hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA), cochlear implants, etc.).

The majority of people with sensori-neural hearing loss benefit from wearing hearing aids.

Unfortunately, only 15 – 20% of people who require hearing aids use them. My next few posts will focus on hearing aids, how they can help you (if you need them); why you need to start wearing them sooner than later; and how to buy hearing aids that are best for you.

Hearing aids can improve the quality of your life. If you have found out that you have a sensori-neural hearing loss and are going to buy hearing aids to help you, there are several factors to consider in choosing the best devices to help you in all sorts of day-to-day listening situations. The more you know, the better your decision will be in choosing hearing aids which are best for you!

The extent of improvement to your hearing is directly proportional to:

1. how much difficulty you are having: the more difficulties you are experiencing, the harder it will be for the hearing aids to restore your hearing to near normal, and,

2. the length of time that you’ve had a hearing loss: the longer you’ve had a hearing loss, the longer it will take for your brain to adjust to sounds heard through hearing aids.

Understanding speech is a brain function. When you put on hearing aids for the first time you’ll begin hearing sounds you haven’t heard in some time, including speech and many unwanted background sounds. Your brain actually has to re-learn how to hear all these sounds and how to filter the sounds you want to hear, like speech, from background sounds so you can hear speech better than background sounds.

While the hearing aids will eventually help you a great deal, it takes training and patience to improve your ability to understand through hearing aids. In fact, research indicates that it takes the brain several months to adjust to listening through hearing aids.

However, in time you will adjust well to your new hearing aids which will increase your ability to participate more fully in day-to-day listening activities.

Factors to consider in choosing hearing aids include, but are not limited to:
• Cost of the hearing aids,
• The level of sophistication of hearing aids: hearing aids are now offered in levels (entry, advanced and premium), offering advanced features so the hearing aids can be tailored to more effectively meet your specific needs,
• Styles and sizes of hearing aids: you no longer have to be self-conscious about wearing hearing instruments, there are a variety of styles to suit everyone and every situation,
• Ease of use for you, and,
• Hearing aids accessories (remote control devices, Bluetooth technology, etc.) to further help you in different listening situations.

In the next few posts, I will provide you more information about each of these factors in hopes of helping you buy the best hearing aids for you and helping you adjust to the hearing aids with realistic expectations.

Please note that the information in this blog is presented for the purpose of providing information and should not be used for medical diagnosis or treatment nor should it be used in place of medical advice from your doctor or hearing health care professional.